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Air Quality

On Emissions, CA Lawmaker Questions Whether CA Should Lead the Way

6:57 AM PDT on April 29, 2010

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson yesterday told
House members that she would soon begin work on new auto
fuel-efficiency rules for the year 2017 and beyond, responding to calls from carmakers searching for certainty -- and warily eyeing the new fuel standards being crafted in California.

The
political and legal jockeying that ultimately led the White House to a
deal on higher U.S. auto fuel standards began in California, where
stronger efficiency rules were adopted, shut down by the Bush administration, and later embraced by 13 other states. 

Now,
as the Golden State sets to work on its fuel standards for the year
2017, the endpoint of the current White House efficiency rules, clean
energy advocates are vowing
to push California officials for the strongest possible auto emissions
limits. If California can set the stage for nationwide progress on
fuel-efficiency once, the theory goes, it can easily happen again.

But
not every California lawmaker is convinced that the state should be a
pioneer. At today's House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing, Rep.
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) openly wondered whether California should
continue prodding the rest of the nation towards greater energy
efficiency -- a question equally applicable to the state's law limiting broader carbon emissions.

After
noting that she spoke as "a proud Californian," Bono Mack asked
Jackson, "If California changes their standards, are you saying we all
have to agree with their standards?"

Choosing her words carefully, Jackson told Bono Mack (one of only eight Republicans to vote in favor
of last year's House climate change bill) that the Obama
administration's new fuel-efficiency rule "was the way to achieve smart
legislation.

"I don't think I can
simply say" whether California's environmental moves are certain to
pave the way for national action on emissions caps, Jackson added,
"because the trick of legislation will be to put [regulatory]
authorities together
in ways that get you [deals like] the clean car rule."

Jackson's cautious response came as she continues to beat back
bipartisan efforts in both chambers of Congress to block the EPA from
regulating greenhouse gas pollution in the absence of legislative
progress on the issue. Yanking the EPA's formal "endangerment finding" on the public health effects of the changing climate, Jackson told the House panel, "would forfeit one quarter of the
combined EPA-DOT program’s [auto] fuel savings and one third of its greenhouse
gas emissions."

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