At least 13 other states and the District of Columbia have said that they intend to follow California in instituting tougher standards than previously called for under federal regulation. Since these areas comprise about 40% of new car sales, it is possible that California legislators and bureaucrats will determine the size and types of cars that you can buy after 2016.
The first California waiver request was made in December 2005 under the Bush Administration and was subsequently denied in March 2008. This previous decision was based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act finding that California did not have a need for its greenhouse gas emission standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” EPA said in a statement defending the reversal of this previous policy ruling.
“This decision puts the law and science first. After review of the scientific findings, and another comprehensive round of public engagement, I have decided this is the appropriate course under the law,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The Obama appointee claimed the waiver is consistent with the Clean Air Act as it’s been used for the last 40 years.
“More importantly, this decision reinforces the historic agreement on nationwide emissions standards developed by a broad coalition of industry, government and environmental stakeholders earlier this year,” she said.
While automakers dependent on government support and others observing the “bully pulpit” that the administration has used to shape the debate on automotive matters have been cowed into public silence, auto dealers, many them small business owners with Republican ties, are more vocal in their opposition.
“EPA’s decision to reverse its 2008 denial of California’s request for a pre-emption waiver is sadly a triumph of politics over good common sense,” said John McEleney, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association. “Moreover, with its action today, the Obama administration has effectively ceded the long-term setting of national fuel economy standards to unelected California regulators,” he added.
Just after taking office in late January, President Barack Obama directed EPA to assess the appropriateness of denying the waiver. EPA received a letter from California on January 21, 2009, raising several issues for Administrator Jackson to review regarding the denial.
Last month, President Obama announced a first-ever national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standards would cover model years 2012-2016. Cars and light trucks must average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, about 40% higher than today. Congress in 2007 passed a 35 mpg requirement by 2020. The accelerated time table will add thousands upon thousands of dollars to the cost of a new car critics say.