WA State Senate passes Zero Emission Vehicle Bill

Legislation would reduce greenhouse gas and other harmful air emissions
For Immediate Release

Olympia, WA – The Washington State Senate yesterday passed SB 5811, which would require that a percentage of vehicles sold by automakers in WA be zero emission vehicles. Nine states have adopted this policy, and it has been a major driver of electric vehicle sales in those states, as well as increasing consumer choice. Now, the bill moves to the State House of Representatives for consideration.

“This bill will directly contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants generated by traditional internal combustion engines,” said Bruce Speight, Environment Washington Director. “We thank Senator Nguyen for his leadership in advancing this bill in the Senate and Rep. Walen for her leadership in the House.”

The Zero Emissions Vehicle, or ZEV bill, would make changes to the clean car program and have Washington State adopt the California motor vehicle emission standards.

“This bill is so important because cars are one of the largest emitters of carbon in Washington state, and in the world,” said Senator Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), prime sponsor of the SB 5811. “What this does is bring more manufacturers and therefore a higher variety of electric vehicles to Washington state. I am very happy that we were able to pass this legislation off the floor and take meaningful strides towards fighting manmade climate change.”

“The science is clear that climate change is real, and consumers want more choices to reduce their personal impacts on our climate and environment,” said State Rep. Amy Walen (D-Kirkland). “As an auto dealer myself, I speak with car buyers all the time. I know that the ZEV mandate is critical to provide consumers with the full array of ZEV options.”

The Governor’s office projects that, if adopted, the Zero Emission Vehicle program in Washington State would result in 8% of new vehicles sales to be Zero Emission Vehicles in 2025 – 8% of new vehicles not pumping out toxins into our air every day, benefitting all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable: children, the elderly, medically compromised, and communities facing high exposure to pollution from vehicles. That’s why the program is supported by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the American Lung Association, among many others.

Vehicles on our roads don’t just generate greenhouse gas emissions; they are also responsible for a significant amount of traditional air pollutants. Residents in many parts of the state, but especially those along major transportation corridors, deal with a variety of noxious pollutants, including PM 2.5, the particulate matter under a certain size that causes major health problems, from cancer to respiratory and heart disease. Vehicles are generating more than 3,000 tons of PM 2.5 each year, and that’s not including a significant volume of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants.

According to [The Electrification Coalition], 457,486 of the approximately 765,000 plug-ins sold in the U.S. through 2017 went to states that had adopted ZEV mandates. " According to the Auto Alliance, four of the states that lead the nation in EV sales (ranked by EVs per registered vehicle) – California, Oregon, Vermont and Massachusetts – have requirements that a certain percentage of each automakers’ sales be zero-emission vehicles. Washington is one of only four states that have adopted the rest of the Clean Car Standards but not the Zero Emission Vehicle program.

“Achieving an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy means ending the use of fossil fuels for all activities, not just electricity,” added Speight. “Although there are many strategies for reducing transportation fossil fuel use – such as encouraging public transportation, walking and biking, and limiting sprawl – as long as Americans continue driving cars and trucks, adopting electric vehicles is a necessity. We urge the House to follow suit and act to reduce emissions in the transportation sector with this bill.”

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Environment Washington is a statewide, membership-based environmental advocacy organization.