Strama Steers Clean Car Bill

If Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, gets his way, new cars in Texas could be as clean as those in California.

Strama, who is positioned to become a leader on environmental and energy-efficiency legislation in the House, has filed HB 776, which would raise the emissions standards for new cars to the highest level permissible under federal law. The federal Clean Air Act allows states to choose between national standards set by the Environmental Protec­tion Agency and the low-emission vehicle standards (LEV II) set by the California Air Resources Board. Strama's bill and the matching Senate version, SB 119 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would put all new cars produced from 2012 onward and sold in Texas on the higher California standards. "This is something I've worked on for 18 years since I was a staffer for Senator Ellis in 1991," Strama said. "The standards adopted by California are undoubtedly stricter, and 13 other states with air pollution problems and that want their citizens to drive the cleanest, most efficient cars have selected them. We want Texans to have those same standards."

With Texas being such a huge car market, Strama said, "This would force manufacturers to produce cars that burn less gasoline." Ellis' office estimates that, even with an average increase in car payments of $7 a month for a more fuel-efficient vehicle, drivers of new fuel-efficient cars would save $18 on gas, leaving them $11 better off every month.

While it wouldn't tackle old gas guzzlers, which Strama called "the larger problem in the current vehicle mix," he sees this bill, programs such as the Texas Emissions Reduc­tion Plan (which provides incentives for upgrading or replacing polluting vehicles), and Gov. Rick Perry's proposal for $5,000 toward buying plug-in hybrid cars in areas failing to attain air-quality standards as part of a long-term solution. "Over a 20-year period," he said, "we need not only to get old cars off the road but to get the cleanest cars on the road."

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