President Obama has ordered the EPA to reconsider state requests to decide their own auto emissions standards, The Boston Globe reports.
Obama signed his first two Presidential Memoranda and told a White House gathering that California and several other states have tried to come up with tougher emission standards but that “Washington stood in their way,” AP reports. But he seemed to endorse the waiver request, saying that such moves are “the first steps” toward “energy independence,” USA Today reports.
Lisa Jackson, the new EPA chief, recently signaled that she would move quickly to review California’s request for a waiver from the Clean Air Act to enforce its own vehicle emissions standards.
According to the Clean Air Act, California can enact pollution laws stricter than the federal laws, provided it is given a waiver from the EPA. But in 2007, the Bush administration denied California’s request to enact tougher tailpipe emissions standards. That denial followed a drawn out legal battle between automakers, California, and other states.
California standards would require auto companies to achieve a 30 percent reduction of emissions by cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles by 2016. Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have already adopted California’s standards.
Obama also ordered his Transportation Department to enact short-term rules on how automakers can improve fuel efficiency of their new models by the 2011 model year. A 2007 law called 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. But the Bush administration failed to write any regulations to enforce the new law, The New York Times reports, even though they asked for it to be crafted.
The administration is not trying to burden struggling automakers, Obama said that the administration wasn’t trying to burden struggling automakers but to “help American automakers prepare for the future.”
“Our nation’s automakers are struggling — drastically restructuring and shedding jobs just to stay afloat,” said Antonia Ferrier, press secretary to House Minority Leader John Boehner. “And now they are being forced to spend billions of dollars to comply with California’s emissions standards, instead of using that money to save American jobs.”
GM, Ford and Chrysler have all included green initiatives in their requests for federal aid. (In November, seven state attorney generals wrote to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging them to require the Big Three automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars and cut GHG emissions in order to receive any federal aid.)
Major U.S. automakers and industry trade associations spent $62.6 million on lobbying in 2007 with the energy bills and the Bush administration’s efforts to craft new fuel rules dominating their spending.
Obama also ordered federal departments and agencies to find new ways to save energy and be more environmentally friendly. In 2007, Bush issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to cut their energy consumption, shift federal fleets to plug-in hybrid vehicles, and expand procurement programs to focus on environmentally friendly products.