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Governor Gray Davis Honored at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of California’s Clean Car Standards

Former California Governor and Loeb Of Counsel Gray Davis was honored during the USC Schwarzenegger Institute’s 20th Anniversary Celebration of California Clean Car Standards on July 22, 2022, for his groundbreaking work to pass the law AB 1493 exactly 20 years ago, which established California's Clean Car Standards. The event also honored Fran Pavley, who authored the bill.

Many of the architects of California’s AB 1493 gathered at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator on July 22 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this landmark legislation. The law mandated that the California Air Resources Board develop and implement greenhouse gas limits for vehicles beginning in model year 2009. It became the first measure passed in the United States to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles.

“I’m very proud that when I came to this fork in the road, I listened to Fran Pavley, Winston Hickox, my whole team, Mary Nichols, and signed this bill,” Governor Davis said. “Because I really do believe it started a clean-energy revolution in America that continues today.”

But the story and far-reaching impact of AB 1493 didn’t stop at it becoming law. First it needed to survive seven years of lawsuits from auto manufacturers. Governor Davis credited the three governors to follow him, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, with defending and building upon AB 1493. Fran followed up her impact with AB 1493 by authoring climate change legislation AB 32, signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, and SB 32, signed by Governor Brown.

“Of all of California’s climate legislation, 1493 is the cornerstone and it was built into everything else that happened afterwards,” Fran said. “You can’t overestimate how significant it was.”

Since Governor Davis signed the bill, 17 states have adopted California’s clean car standards as their own. And in 2009, the Obama Administration adopted AB 1493 as the national standard for regulating tailpipe emissions.

“Our bill basically survived all these litigation attacks, if you will, in early 2009,” Governor Davis said. “By then, Obama was President and was well aware of what we were doing. He took most of it, 85 to 90% of it, to form a national solution. Because of these efforts, 1493 not only reduces emissions in California. It reduces them nationally, and we had some impact in people’s thinking around the world.”

The Biden Administration reinstated California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to implement its own leading greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks.

“California gives every state a run for their money in terms of climate action, and that’s a good thing,” said Ali Zaida, Deputy National Climate Advisor to President Biden. “That has propelled I think the shift we’re seeing across the country and really a renaissance in the American auto industry.”

Recently, Governor Newsom advanced AB 1493 by announcing that California would become the first state to end new gas car sales by 2035.

“It’s nice to look back and see how much has been done the past 20 years,” Governor Davis said. “But I know this law will continue to affect people for decades to come.”