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Copyright (c) 1998 Albany Law Environmental Outlook Journal
Albany Law Environmental Outlook Journal

ARTICLE: California Cruisin' -- New York's Adoption of California's Motor Vehicle Emissions Program

Spring / Summer 1998

4 Alb. L. Envtl. Outlook 36


By Joan Leary Matthews and Louise G. Roback



New York State has struggled to meet the ozone and carbon monoxide ("CO") National Ambient Air Quality Standards ("NAAQS") by regulating mobile sources. The State's most ambitious effort by far to control motor vehicle emissions is through controls on the emissions hardware of new motor vehicles. Studies commissioned by New York and other states in the Northeast showed that mobile sources emit 90 percent of the CO and over half of the volatile organic compounds ("VOCs") and nitrogen oxide ("Nox") that pollute the State's air. The studies further illustrated that mobile source emissions account for over half of the aggregate cancer risk from toxic air pollution in New York's urban areas and contribute to global warming and acid deposition. Although substantial progress has been made in reducing emissions through the use of stationary and limited mobile source controls, the plain fact is that people are driving more. New York determined that vast increases in "vehicle miles traveled" ("VMT") necessitated more stringent pollution controls on new motor vehicles and embarked on an ambitious regulatory program in the early part of this decade.


The federal Clean Air Act places limits on the ability of a state to adopt emission standards for new motor vehicles. Since 1967, the federal government has partially preempted states from regulating emissions from new motor vehicles, allowing only California to create its own automobile standards because that state had already begun enforcing unique standards for automobiles in an ...
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