After a wait of two years, the EPA has ruled on California’s waiver request by handing automakers a victory and denying California the right to set its own tougher-than-federal vehicle emission standards. Governor Schwarzenegger has vowed to sue in order to overturn the ruling.
The news came just hours after president Bush signed energy legislation passed by Congress. That legislation calls for an industrywide increase to an average 35 mile per gallon for cars, small trucks and SUVs over the next 13 years, an increase of 10 mpg or 40 percent over what the entire fleet averages today.
The EPA said it had determined that the unified federal standard of 35 miles per gallon will deliver “significant” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in all 50 states, which it said will be more effective than a partial state-by-state approach of 33.8 miles per gallon.
“The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules – to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. “President Bush and Congress have set the bar high, and, when fully implemented, our federal fuel economy standard will achieve significant benefits by applying to all 50 states.”
Industry analysts and environmental groups said the EPA’s decision had the appearance of a reward to the industry, in return for dropping its opposition to the energy legislation. the New York Times reports.
“It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation,” Governor Schwarzenegger said in a statement. We will continue to fight this battle. California sued to compel the agency to act on our waiver, and now we will sue to overturn today’s decision and allow Californians to protect our environment.
The ruling days after a federal judge in Fresno ruled that California could set its own standards on greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles – but California needed permission from the EPA to implement the standards, which would have required auto companies to achieve a 30 percent reduction of emissions by cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles by 2016.
California is the only state that can set its own vehicle pollution standards because it began regulating air pollution before the EPA’s creation. Under the Clean Air Act, however, other states can select either California’s rules or federal ones.
Sixteen states comprising about 45 percent of all U.S. auto sales had adopted, or were in the process of adopting, California’s standards.
The original request for a waiver of federal preemption of California’s Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards was made by the California Air Resources Board two years ago, on December 21, 2005.
In November, California filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to act on the waiver request.
In the past, the EPA granted other waver requests from California, but “Greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature, which is unlike the other air pollutants covered by prior California waiver requests,” The EPA said in a statement. “These gases contribute to the challenge of global climate change affecting every state in the union. Therefore, according to the criteria in section 209 of the Clean Air Act, EPA did not find that separate California standards are needed to ‘meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.'”
“This decision is like pulling over the fire trucks on their way to the blaze,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense “For 40 years, EPA administrators have recognized the important role that California plays in innovating new standards to fight pollution.”
“By denying this waiver, EPA has not wavered in preserving a national program that raises fuel economy while reducing carbon dioxide,” said Dave McCurdy, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “We commend EPA for protecting a national, 50-state program.”