EPA Okays Stronger Auto Emissions Standards Now in CA, 13 Other States

The
Environmental Protection Agency today granted California’s request for
a waiver allowing greater limits on auto tailpipe emissions, a move
that effectively speeds up the phasing-in of the Obama administration’s
fuel-efficiency standards in as many as 13 other states.

The
EPA billed its decision, which was widely expected and fulfills a
campaign promise made by the president, as a return to long-standing
precedent of regulating under the Clean Air Act.

But
the waiver is likely to bring short-term benefits for California as
well as the 13 states that joined its waiver request, permitting that
group to impose stricter auto emissions standards between now and 2012.

In 2012, California has agreed to equalize its program with
the federal government’s, EPA officials explained to reporters today.
That paves the way for the Obama administration’s 35.5 mpg
fuel-efficiency standard to begin taking effect in the 2016 model year.

California
lawmakers reacted excitedly to the announcement. Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), referencing the
Bush administration’s controversial denial
of the emissions waiver, remarked: "It should be comforting to know
that the [EPA] is now putting science and the law back into the
driver’s seat rather than politics and special interests."

Meanwhile,
the auto industry was as glum as could be expected, given that it has
already agreed to the Obama administration’s fuel-efficiency rules and
agreed to drop all lawsuits contesting the waiver request. "We are
hopeful the granting of this waiver will not undermine the enormous
efforts put forth to create the national program," Alliance of
Automobile Manufacturers President Dave McCurdy said in a statement.