The recent spate of high particle pollution days in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley regions is a stark reminder that California’s legacy of severe air pollution continues today. Over the past two months, stagnant air conditions have led to unhealthy pollution levels, especially troubling to those suffering from asthma and other respiratory conditions. Cars, trucks and other vehicles, and the fossil fuels they burn, contribute to smog and particle pollution and to greenhouse gases that threaten our planet. Fortunately, the California Air Resources Board is set to vote this month on a landmark rule to cut auto emissions – welcome news for all Californians.

Our state has a proud history of adopting cutting-edge vehicle standards that lead the nation and the world. As former chair persons of the Air Resources Board, we’ve voted to set a course for strong, health-based standards that are grounded in scientific research and honed through broad stakeholder input. California’s leadership has paid great dividends. The new Advanced Clean Cars rulemaking package that the current air board will consider builds on this history and reflects recent coordination with the federal government.

These rules once again will dramatically ratchet down on smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions from cars, strengthen California’s visionary Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program and place real requirements on oil companies to sell the alternative fuels needed to make these rules work. The current board can exercise leadership by setting tight particle pollution standards for conventional vehicles that take effect sooner, rather than later, and by giving special attention to requiring the highest possible numbers of zero emission vehicles

California’s future must be one where nearly all cars are zero emission if we are to meet health-based air quality standards and the state’s long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gases. To meet those lofty goals we need to start now, so that by 2025 nearly two million ultra-clean vehicles, including hundreds of thousands of plug-in hybrid, zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be on California’s roads. By holding firm, the air board will ensure regulatory certainty for automakers and investors, spur continued technology advancement and innovation, and bring the state closer to its goals.

A zero-emission future will bring tremendous air quality and public health benefits. According to American Lung Association in California research, hundreds of lives can be saved each year, thousands of asthma attacks avoided and over $7 billion in healthcare, environmental and energy security damages can be avoided annually if California transitions completely to advanced clean cars by 2025. However, the state could almost double these benefits — to $13 billion in annual savings — if California were to shift completely to a fleet of ZEVs. Also, premature deaths and illnesses linked to vehicle pollution would be cut by 90 percent. The billions of dollars avoided annually translate to improved public health and more money in the pocketbooks of every California family.

Strong advanced clean car standards are a win-win for California. We’ll win the ability to breathe cleaner air and ensure healthier lungs for our children and grandchildren. We’ll win freedom from volatile fuel prices. We’ll win more ground in the fight against climate change. We’ll win new jobs and economic prosperity. Plus California will remain at the forefront of technological innovation and deployment.

California’s current Air Resources Board has an important responsibility to ensure clean air and a stable climate for generations to come. They can fulfill that responsibility in part by adopting the Advanced Clean Cars package, including a strong ZEV Program, later this month.