Chairwoman DiMario, Rep. Cortvriend
applaud adoption of CA fuel economy standards


STATE HOUSE – Sen. Alana DiMario and Rep. Terri Cortvriend are applauding Governor Dan McKee’s announcement that Rhode Island will join a growing number of states committed to California’s ambitious fuel economy standards for vehicles.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture. “We thank Governor McKee and the Department of Environmental Management for working on this issue with us. Motor vehicle emissions cause major health problems, especially for children and those living in high-traffic areas. By reducing those emissions, we’re creating a healthier, safer world for all of us.”

Governor McKee announced today that Rhode Island would join a growing list of states requiring new vehicle sales to comply with California’s Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks emission standards. Those standards require that, by 2035, 100% of newly sold passenger vehicles and an increasing number of newly sold medium- and heavy-duty vehicles be zero-emissions. Zero-emissions vehicles include battery electric, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell electric vehicles. 

Under the Clean Air Act, states are not permitted to set their own vehicle emissions standards. Instead, they may choose between following the federal standard, set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or California’s standard, set by the California Air Resources Board. Rhode Island was one of 14 states that had followed California’s previous admission standards, but these standards were updated in 2020.

Eight other states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, have adopted these newer standards. Chairwoman DiMario and Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) introduced legislation (2023-S 0195, 2023-H 6055) that would have made Rhode Island the ninth.

Many environmental conversations in recent years have focused on the threat of climate change, and transportation accounts for 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But air pollution is another huge hazard and tailpipe emissions are a leading cause of poor air quality. Over 100,000 Americans die each year due to air pollution. A report from the American Lung Association found that transitioning to 100% sales of zero-emission passenger vehicles and medium- and heavy-duty trucks, coupled with renewable electricity generation, would avoid 110,000 premature deaths, 3 million asthma attacks and over 13 million workdays lost. The total economic impact of such a transition would be over $1.2 trillion in public health benefits.

“Today’s a great day for clean air in Rhode Island. For too long, we’ve been putting our neighbors living near high-traffic areas at greater risk of serious health problems including asthma, cancer and heart disease,” said Representative Cortvriend. “With this effort, we are standing up for the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders. We can do this, and we’ll all be healthier when we do.”

“The Act on Climate put us on the clock for meeting major carbon reduction mandates, and it’s clear to me that Rhode Island will only meet the mandates by addressing the transportation sector head-on,” said Governor McKee. “Implementing the Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks policy will help us do exactly that, minimize smog across the state but especially in environmental justice communities, and ensure adequate customer choice on electric vehicles in the future.”

“The RI Act on Climate directs all state agencies to move forward under their respective authorities to meet the greenhouse gas reduction mandates set in the law. Today, DEM is taking a major step to fight climate change in the transportation sector,” said Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Terry Gray, whose agency will hold a virtual public listening session May 18 to discuss the new regulations and begin the rulemaking process. “Rhode Island is joining our neighboring states to cut GHGs and air pollution, which have the most impact on our communities that border our major roads and highways, creating a disproportionate impact in those neighborhoods. The environmental and health impacts from improved air quality in these areas is significant. In terms of economic impact, states joining together to send a clear signal to the market will result in greater economies of scale, driving down the prices of zero-emissions vehicles, and ensuring that Rhode Island dealers and customers have full access to electric vehicles.”