Since it's only three weeks before the normal switchover to winter blends, the thinking was the dirtier formula wouldn't affect people's health too much.
"It gives the industry a green light to go ahead and produce winter-blend fuel, distribute it and sell it," said Dave Clegern of the California Air Resources Board.
The move to introduce the winter formula earlier is expected to increase the gasoline supply in California by as much as 10 percent.
However, it will take a few more days for prices to dip at the pump. A California Shell refinery said it's more complicated than flipping a switch.
"Our gasoline prices have set a record, and we're paying that and we're all upset about that, no doubt. But they will be coming down, but may not be coming down as rapidly as everyone wants," said Gordon Schremp of the California Energy Commission.
Republicans are calling for adopting one formula all year long, like the federal formula, so California refineries can bring in oil from other states to keep prices competitive. They say the governor's directive will only reduce prices by a small amount.
"This is too little too late," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). "It's no lasting solution. Aren't we looking for the long term so for the next years, we're not going to be facing these gas prices?"
California adopted stricter gasoline standards because the pollution was bad. The state says summer blends have lessened smog and improved the health of Californians.
"Since it first went into effect in 1971, thousands of Californians are alive now, who wouldn't have been. People with asthma. People with emphysema," Cegern said.