Interview with Fran Pavley

Bradley Berman: What was the genesis of the Pavley Law?

Fran Pavley: This bill, quite frankly, was a last-minute decision from a freshman legislator who had been in office for three weeks [referring to herself]. I had no idea what I was taking on. Probably more seasoned legislators would have said, no way you can pass that. Not only were the oil companies very powerful in California, but the major automobile manufactureres all of the sudden woke up and had the automobile dealerships in California engaged in the process. And they are influential. There are dealerships in every single assemblyperson and senator’s districts. It became a multimillion-dollar campaign to prevent the bill from going forward, with full-page ads in papers, to television commercials. You name it.

The week my bill was heard, in its very first hearing in the spring of 2001 was the week that Time Magazine had on a cover story on global warming. That was one of the first times a major magazine was spending time educating the public on human impacts on climate change. Since then, this bill has just taken off.

BB: So it took five years for the bill to become a law?

Pavley: Yes. I orignially authored the bill in 2001, signed into law by Governor Davis in 2002. As far as specifics on the amount of emissions and deadlines, that was adopted through the regulaltory process through California Air Resouces Board. My bill directed them to come up with a feasible cost effective way to [reduce greenhouse gas emissions.] CARB came up with engnieering and science based on what is doable.

It was signed into law by Democratic governor Gray Davis, and after a two-year regulatory process, with workshops and everything at CARB, and then adopted by the Calif Air Resouceces Board unanimously under the republican governorship of Shwarzeneger.

BB: Did it meet much resistance at the state level?

FP: Unbelievable resistance. Multi-million dollar campaigns to try to defeat the bill when it was going through the legislative process.

BB: Why are the carmkers trying to block the law?

FP: Some of the issued to be determined by the court have to do with preemption rules related to the CAFE standards. We are not setting a miles per gallon standard, we are regulating emissions which you know California can do under the Clean Air Act. We’re regulating tailpipe emissions which has been consistent. Then, there is some discussion in the EPA waiver process if CO2 and other gases are pollutants. In the state courts, some discussion whether the bill signed into law wether these are feasible cost-effective strategies to implement these reductions. We know in most cases, especially for the near-term targets, a lot of technologies are already being used on automobiles around the world today would move us in the right direction.

BB: Did it surprise you that automaker who are considered to be leaders in fuel efficiency joined the lawsuit?

FP: Absolutely surprised me. Honda, with some of their alternative fuels and use of hybrid technology probably already meet the reduction requirement we have in the bill. Credit for past reductions. But they are part of an alliance. In principle, they don’t like regulations to determine their products or requirements on reductions on a certain timetable. But it was very disappointing to have the greenest automobile manufacturers in the world join the lawsuit.

I’ve traveled through Japan. Frankly, the Minister of the Environment and other people were surprised to hear about that. I shared with members of the French National Assembly, and British Parilaiment, who were visiting Sacramento, that their auto makers were part of the lawsuit. It always seems to be new information.

BB: They are formidable opponents considering what they were able to do to ZEV standards?

FP: They are formidable opponents, but we know it is feasible. If the public insists on action by the federal government, or puts pressure on our automobile manufacturers, especially our green ones from international companies, then perhaps we can get them to drop the lawsuit.

BB: What’s next?

FP: In about a year, the trial in California will be held. There’s some attempt to change the venue. There’s been inteveners in the lawsuit defending the California bill, which is not defended by our Attorney General’s office. Governor Shwarzeneger says we will legally defend this bill. Some environmental organizations have joined in as interveners. It will be a very important litigation with dramatic effects, not just California, but nationally and potentially internationally. We know that we change technologies related to air quality or climate change, other countries in the world adopt our standards and approaches.