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New Mexico to enact stricter vehicle emissions standards

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. (AP file)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday that New Mexico will adopt stricter vehicle emissions standards by the end of next year that would go into effect in 2022.

“To combat climate change, to keep New Mexico's citizens safe, to protect the air we all breathe, it's essential we adopt more stringent clean car standards that increase fuel economy and reduce emissions,” Lujan Grisham said at a U.S. Climate Alliance panel in New York City. “It is environmentally and economically counterproductive to stall fuel economy standards, as contemplated by the proposed federal rollbacks.”

In July, Lujan Grisham signed on to the Clean Car Promise with 23 other governors in the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance. The statement criticized the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to reverse nationwide vehicle emissions standards that were enacted in 2012. The EPA's proposed changes would set a standard of 37 mpg for new vehicles. The Obama-era standard was 54 mpg by 2025. The governor said the proposed rollbacks threaten to “rob New Mexico” of a chance to reduce air pollution.

The state's new standards would be stricter than those now required by the federal government and would come into play earlier than the regulations under Obama.

New state rules would apply to cars beginning in model year 2022 sold in New Mexico. The proposed changes are expected to increase the average fuel economy to 52 mpg.

With Tuesday's announcement, New Mexico would join 14 other states that have adopted clean car standards.

New Mexico's announcement comes as California faces off with the federal government over vehicle emissions standards. Last week, the EPA revoked the state's authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. California officials plan to sue the administration so the state can enact stricter regulations to combat air pollution. California's current clean car standard has a target of 51 mpg by 2025.

In a June 6 letter to President Donald Trump, 17 U.S. automakers said they “support a unified (fuel economy) standard that both achieves year-over-year improvements in fuel economy and facilitates the adoption of vehicles with alternative powertrains.” The automakers said consistent national standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy would help American-made cars compete in a global market.

Transportation is the second-highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico after oil and natural gas production, according to a statement from New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney. He said stricter standards could help achieve “real reductions” in harmful emissions.

“In addition to a regulatory approach, we will complement our regulatory structure with incentives – like building infrastructure for electric vehicles and increasing the number of electric vehicles in state fleets,” Kenney said. “We are not waiting for the courts to prove the federal government is wrong in blocking states from adopting more protective vehicle emission standards. We are moving forward because it is the right thing to do for public health, the environment, car manufacturers and consumers.”

The governor pointed to stricter standards as a way to reduce New Mexico's high levels of ozone. The state Environment Department is developing a statewide ozone reduction plan. Chemicals that fuel the creation of ozone, a harmful greenhouse gas that can cause respiratory problems, are commonly found in vehicle emissions.

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