Should Pennsylvania be governed by the legislators its citizens elect, or by a board of nonelected regulators in another state?

It is a question that goes to the heart of the matter of state sovereignty.

Never in the history of this commonwealth has Pennsylvania ceded its governmental authority to another state, let alone the most eccentric state in the union. Yet that is exactly what Pennsylvania would be doing if it adopted the “California standard” for automobile emissions.

Pennsylvania already is in compliance with the Federal Tier II standard for auto emissions, part of the Federal Clean Air Act. This strict standard, designed to produce cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles, is required of all new vehicles currently sold in Pennsylvania.

A 2003 study by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management found that both the California standard and the Federal Tier II standard would reduce vehicle exhaust emissions by an additional 90 percent or more over the next 20 years.

So, the choice here is not between a clean car and a dirty car, as some have portrayed it. It is a choice between two very clean cars.

The California Air Resources Board established its emissions standard – which in fact is not that much stricter than the federal standard – because the Golden State has the dirtiest air in the nation.

Cleaning that air is the CARB’s sole concern, and the edicts it enforces to achieve that, now and in the future, would be foisted on Pennsylvanians without Pennsylvania having any redress in those decisions.

Do we trust California regulators to choose our destiny?

Frankly, I do not. That is why I believe it is imperative to enact my legislation (HB 2141) that would block the implementation of California’s Low Emissions Vehicle standard in Pennsylvania.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Democrat Keith McCall, who is minority chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

If we do not enact my legislation, Pennsylvania consumers’ choice of vehicles would be limited and the cost of those vehicles would increase.

Moreover, getting optimal performance out of those vehicles would require the use of reformulated fuel containing half the sulfur of conventional fuel. Those vehicles could operate on the conventional fuel currently sold in Pennsylvania, but doing so may compromise the mechanical integrity of the vehicle. At this point, no one knows for certain.

What we do know for certain is that Pennsylvania would be subject to related mandates instituted by those California decision-makers.

Those mandates might include quotas on the sale of electric vehicles and anti-diesel restrictions, just to name two future possibilities.

If air quality and fuel efficiency would be significantly improved by adopting the California standard, rather than the Federal Tier II emissions standard that Pennsylvania currently complies with, then I would be all in favor of “going Cali.”

However, that simply is not the case. The federal standard is more than sufficient.

Given that fact, Pennsylvania stands to lose more than it would gain in this situation.

Not the least of which would be its self-determination.

State Rep. Rick Geist, R-Altoona, is chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

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