RAY SUAREZ, HOST:
California has the toughest air quality regulations of any state in the country, but they're not tough enough to satisfy the new state law that requires California to double the rate at which it cuts greenhouse gases. So this month, the California board that sets climate policy released a new plan. It focuses on transportation. And NPR's Sonari Glinton joins us now to discuss it. Hi, Sonari.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Heya.
SUAREZ: So this plan was put out by the California Air Resources Board. What exactly is in the plan?
GLINTON: Well, it deals with all sorts of things - power plants, solar installation, even cement mixing. But it's really about transportation. The idea is that it'll crack down harder on polluters and super polluters. And there are also incentives to industry to use electric vehicles. So think about electric buses, semi trucks and maybe even forklifts. And the goal is to get about 4.2 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, which is pretty bold 'cause we have under a million now.
SUAREZ: Well, that caught my eye because I wondered how California achieves that goal of more electric vehicles when SUVs are once again all the rage.
GLINTON: Well, you know, Ray, it helps when you give people money (laughter) to incentivize them. California already has a lot more electric vehicles than other states, and it's gotten there in part by incentives. Now the state will offer $2,500 dollars for electric cars and up to $5,000 for other vehicles. But the real investment is in the infrastructure. This plan calls for doubling the number of electric chargers because studies show that people need to see these charging stations to make them feel comfortable about buying an electric car.
SUAREZ: That sounds like it's going to cost a lot of money. Where's that going to come from to pay for these incentives?
GLINTON: Well, there's, you know, gas taxes, fines, pollution credits. But here's something interesting. Volkswagen is one of the biggest contributors to the fund to build this new charging infrastructure. They're contributing $800 million in fines from its diesel emissions cheating scandal. But what the state is doing here is really important because California doesn't just set policy for California. Other states follow California's lead. And other countries are beginning to follow California, such as China. So car makers pay a lot of attention to what's happening here because 10 percent of the cars in the country are sold here.
SUAREZ: Well, back here in Washington the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, wants to roll back fuel economy standards from the Obama era. Would that supersede the California rules?
GLINTON: Well, not really. The federal government sets fuel economy rules. So how fuel efficient your car is, that's the federal government's purview. But air quality is essentially the state of California. And that's because California has a waiver under the Clean Air Act of 1970 that allows it to set stricter policies than the EPA. Then other states can adopt those fuel standards. And then the car companies build their cars essentially to comply with California's tougher rules. But the Air Resources Board and Trump's EPA have been in a philosophical conflict. It seems unlikely that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will fight a waiver. But if he does, environmentalist groups and the states say they are ready for a fight.
SUAREZ: That's NPR's Sonari Glinton. He joins us from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Thanks, Sonari.
GLINTON: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF SNARKY PUPPY'S "LINGUS")
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