Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Using the new federal fuel efficiency standards as a pretext, EPA administrator Steven Johnson rejected California's request for a waiver to establish its own greenhouse gas regulations for automobiles.

The tailpipe standards California adopted in 2004 would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks beginning in the 2009 model year.

Under the Clean Air Act, the state needed a federal waiver to implement the rules....

In explaining his decision, Johnson cited energy legislation approved by Congress and signed into law Wednesday by President Bush. The law requires automakers to achieve an industrywide average fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs and small trucks of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 _ the first increase in the federal requirement in 32 years.

By 2016, California's law would require passenger cars and some small sport utility vehicles and trucks to reach 43.7 miles per gallon. Most pickups, SUVs and larger vehicles would need to achieve 26.9 mpg by 2016.

Johnson said Congress' approach of reaching a fleetwide average of 35 mpg would be better than a "partial state-by-state approach" that would achieve 33.8 mpg.

But environmental groups questioned Johnson's reasoning, noting that California's standards would be higher a full four years ahead of the congressional action and the federal 35 mpg was minimum requirement that future administrations could exceed.
This was the first time in 40 years that the EPA denied a waiver for California to adopt its own standards. Sixteen other states also planned to adopt the emissions standards had California received its waiver. Instead they, like California, will have to wait before the stricter standards can be implemented. Governor Schwarzenegger has promised another lawsuit to force the EPA to grant the waiver. Maryland plans to join California's suit, and New Jersey is furious about the denial.

See Gristmill for answers to some of Johnson's arguments.