Opinion: California can put the brakes on unscrupulous automakers

California has led the United States in battling air pollution. As the only state permitted to set emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, it has used its special authority to push the auto industry to become cleaner and more innovative. For more than 50 years, federal regulators have in turn piggybacked on California’s demonstrated success.

It was the California Air Resources Board that in 2014 commissioned a study on emissions discrepancies between European and U.S. models of vehicles and exposed Volkswagen’s use of “defeat devices” to cheat diesel emissions standards. CARB initiated an investigation and worked with the federal government to bring the automaker to justice. The resulting settlement cost Volkswagen $25 billion in U.S. fines, penalties, civil damages and restitution to consumers.