TodayApril 15, 2022

Nichols McCarthy CARB EPA look back over 50 years

* McCarthy – more Volkswagen executives will go to jail
* Nichols – Governor Brown invited Chinese to sell their electric vehicles in California
* McCarthy – when the federal government takes a break, CARB doesn’t
* Nichols – the U.S. as a whole is not as big a part of the world market for cars and trucks as it once was

During the Clinton Administration Mary Nichols worked in DC heading up the air program. She was given the task of administering the new version of the Clean Air Act. Nichols quickly realized that what she would be doing is replicating legislature in the Federal air quality legislation that had already been implemented in California.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) 50th Anniversary was celebrated with a discussion between Nichols and Gina McCarthy, the former administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Connecticut is one of the twelve States that has followed in California’s lead with the clean air act. In her Happy Anniversary remarks to CARB McCarthy celebrated Nichols and CARB, “It is wonderful to see how CARB leadership has driven the Federal leadership and how it underpins it and many times how it prevented the Federal government from going backward.”

Dieselgate had a profound effect on the Nation and Volkswagen. The key, according to McCarthy, was the resources that were leveraged by the EPA, by CARB, and by Canada. The millions of dollars Volkswagen paid for their crime will be spent on the infrastructure for electric cars. Without CARB, the cheating would not have been found, but this was the first time the ability to leverage resources Nationally, and Internationally was implemented.

The term skullduggery was used to describe the history of car companies cheating and Nichols was almost zen-ful in her admission that cheating has happened before, and it will happen again, “Whenever you have regulations that cost people money, and you’re in a competitive business environment, which the industry is, there will be people looking for ways to cut corners. I think one of the things we learned from the experience was that we were not putting enough of our assets onto the enforcement side, into what was happening on the road. There were ways we hadn’t even thought of that someone could be caught cheating on the test. It’s just a dynamic situation. The good news is that most of the companies most of the time follow the rules, because the consequences when you are caught are so enormous, as the Volkswagen group showed, that most companies wouldn’t risk it.”

Nichols’s biggest celebration of 50 years of CARB is, “The evolution of automobiles that get better gas mileage, better performance and emit one percent or less of pollutants that we set out to monitor is a phenomenal success story. One of the biggest success stories was getting the lead out of gasoline.” It was a succession of sciences; you had to take the lead out of the gasoline and use catalytic converters for air quality, but you had to have the gasoline companies take the lead out because the lead poisoned the catalytic converters and wouldn’t work with lead in the gas. Low sulfur was another example.

The biggest concern for CARB and the Governor is that Californians are still driving too much, “to change that paradigm and to make life in cities healthier and more dynamic is a big change.” California has had a consistent policy history. There has not been a Governor in California that has tried to turn back the work of CARB. Nichols attributes that to the fact that Air quality is a deeply held value in California.

A Connected Autonomous vehicle question was asked of McCarthy and she responded, “One of the greatest gifts California brings is that when the federal government takes a break, CARB doesn’t. Right now, I would be totally embarrassed in every meeting in any other country was it not for the visibility of States like California and cities and businesses to keep moving forward. No matter what happens in Washington, we can still cut our own path forward, and we’re not going backward. That’s what California means to me. That’s what I think it shows to the rest of the world. We are in the middle of a clean market transition that even this administration can’t figure out how to stop. You guys have kicked butt.”

In a lightning round between McCarthy and Nichols, there was a true or false question to McCarthy

Will more VW executives will go to the “big house” for their role in dieselgate?

Yes, true.

A question for Nichols – Oil companies have more power in Sacramento than they did ten years ago –


One of your primary accomplishments has been to provide more employment for lawyers.


When Nichols was asked about the future of CARB, she replied, “I think CARB is always going to be front and center no matter what, because of the scope of what we’re going to do. It may not be the favored child, but it will be one of the favored.”

Nichols was asked about the federal government relaxing California’s standards without CARB’s consent. Nichols said that “unless they could show it was absolutely necessary, and we’re not sacrificing any of the progress that we need to make towards our air and climate goals, then we’ll be back in court, and we do pretty well there. We’ve done well because we pay attention to the law.”

Nichols said that Governor Brown is inviting the world to come to San Francisco in September for the Global Climate Action Summit at the request of the United Nations. Advances in technology and new standards for clean or alternative fuels will be supported. This is a time when not just looking good but having accomplishments matters to our legislatures.

According to a press release put out by CARB 37 different battery-powered, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell electric vehicle models are available in California. As of March, California had more than 280,000 zero-emission vehicles on the roads, and the Governor has set a goal of putting 1.5 million ZEVs on the roads by 2025 and 4-5 million by 2030.

Nichols agreed that China is the trendsetter on EVs, “The market in China is gigantic, the market for GM vehicles is in China. U.S. companies are starting to recognize that electric vehicles are going to be coming – the question is, is it theirs, or is it BYDs. Is it a Chinese company? There is no question they are setting markets – we live in a world market and if you are bigger and you’re more advanced, and you can sell cheaper, and your product is better, you will have an advantage, and I think that is what we are seeing now. I think it will make a dramatic change in the US market.”

“CARB and China have robust relationships in China especially in Beijing, ever since the Olympics. It’s important to work with China to help them reduce their emissions because we know for certain that we get some of China’s emissions.”

Nichols said that Governor Brown invited Chinese companies to bring their electric vehicles to California and start selling them, “It would be a great problem to have that the market needs to clamp down on manufacturing EVs because there are too many of them and not all companies will be successful.”

The states that have adopted the California standards are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. California owns 12% of the car market.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.