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EPA Grants California’s Waiver Request for Separate Emissions Standards

Latest defeat for the auto industry could create administrative chaos and severely restrict your new vehicle choices.

by on Jun.30, 2009

EPA Adminstrator Jackson

The Obama appointee claimed the waiver is appropriate and consistent with previous interpretations of the Clean Air Act by EPA.

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.

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“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.

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Rose Garden Ceremony Proclaims New Auto Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Policy

The President demonstrates his powers of persuasion and the collapse of auto industry influence.

by on May.19, 2009

President Obama at a Townhall meeting

In an historic first, the projected reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions sets in motion a policy that says it's America's desire to deal with global warming after decades of denial.

For followers of the auto emissions and fuel economy wars that have been going on for five decades now, the announcement today by President Barack Obama that one “National Fuel Efficiency Policy” is decreed is a clear turning point in America’s growing interest in cleaning the air we all breathe.

It is also a stark demonstration of the growing inability of the auto industry to promote its own narrow self-interests to the detriment of the larger public good.

The proposed National Fuel Efficiency Policy adopts uniform federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions while preserving the legal authorities of the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California and 13 other States, according to the President.

The fuel efficiency program covers new vehicle model years 2012 to 2016, and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016. An estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil will not be used by vehicles bought over the five-year life of the program — over an unspecified lifetime of each vehicle. The fuel economy gains of more than 5% per year would have once been unthinkable in lobbyist-dominated Washington.

In an historic first, the projected reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions sets in motion a policy that says it’s America’s desire to deal with global warming after decades of refusing to do so. The 35.5 in 2016 is equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal plants, according to the Administration.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe key component in this reduction is the increase in the average mileage requirement from new vehicles that leaves as road kill the existing CAFE law passed by Congress and President Bush in 2007. Back then, under heavy auto industry lobbying, the bill only required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg in 2020.

“In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” said President Obama. “That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.”  (more…)