WASHINGTON - The Obama administration
Tuesday approved California's long-standing bid to set its own
tough standards for vehicle emissions, a decision in tune with
a national plan to boost fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse
gases linked to climate change.
These standards are immediately effective for California
and for 13 other states and Washington D.C., which have adopted
the same standards, officials at the Environmental Protection
By granting this request, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency said it recognized California's need for a tight
emissions program that included limits on climate-warming
National standards match California's goal for cuts in
greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The EPA waiver allows the
state to enforce standards for 2009-2011, before the federal
targets take effect, but manufacturers should have little
difficulty making the goals.
California also has a host of other vehicle regulations,
from car windows that reflect more sun to cut air conditioning
loads to checks on tire pressure.
In a brief statement, EPA said this decision marked a
return to the "traditional legal interpretation of the Clean
Air Act," an apparent swipe at the Bush administration, which
balked at granting this waiver and at imposing any mandatory
economy-wide limits on climate-warming emissions.
The announcement came just four days after legislation
aimed at curbing climate change was narrowly approved by the
U.S. House, and more than a month after
Obama ordered the struggling auto industry to cut emissions and
improve gas mileage on May 19.
Law and science
"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," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a
California first requested the normally routine Clean Air
Act waiver from EPA in 2005. The request was denied by the Bush
administration in 2008.
Shortly after taking office in January, Obama directed EPA
to revisit the denial.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California hailed the EPA
decision: "After being asleep at the wheel for over two
decades, the federal government has finally stepped up and
granted California its nation-leading tailpipe emissions
Schwarzenegger said this would spur his state's emerging
green economy, create new jobs and "bring Californians the cars
they want while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Governors from the other affected states offered similar
plaudits, such as New York Gov. David Paterson's statement:
"The decision is living proof that there is new leadership in
The American Petroleum Institute, a key oil industry
interest group, was critical: "Using the Clean Air Act to
regulate greenhouse gases would impose costly requirements for
hundreds of thousands of businesses, large and small, as well
as schools, offices and buildings across the United States."
Environmentalists were jubilant. David Doniger of the
Natural Resources Defense Council said in a blog:
"These national standards will be a win for everyone.
We'll have cleaner cars that cut dangerous global warming
pollution nationwide ... The car makers will get the practical
national uniformity they've been craving. And we'll help them
get back to health by making cars that fit the market in a
world of higher oil prices and global warming."
(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and John Crawley in
Washington, Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by David
Copyright 2009 Reuters