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US EPA Opens Comment Period on California Waiver for Regulating Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions

24 April 2007

The US Environmental Protection Agency today opened the public comment period on California’s nearly 16-month-old request for a federal waiver to begin regulating automotive greenhouse gas emissions. This marks the agency’s first official action in response to the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. (Earlier post.)

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced the opening of the period during testimony in a hearing before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the implications of that Supreme Court decision.

Just this morning, we signed the formal notice that starts the public process for considering the California waiver petition...this is keeping with my and the agency’s committment to expeditiously begin the process following the Supreme Court ruling. The decision we make in response to Massachusetts v. EPA will be integrated in the Administration’s existing climate policy and will build on the progress we’ve already achieved.

—Stephen Johnson

The Clean Air Act allows California to set its own emissions standards, provided that it gets a routine waiver from the EPA. EPA’s granting of a federal waiver to California is thus the next step in the regulatory process. California has never been denied a waiver in past instances of other regulatory action, according to Johnson.

The EPA is accepting written comments on the waiver petition through 15 June, and will hold a hearing on 22 May in Washington, DC on the matter. Johnson would not commit to a timeline to processing the waiver following the closing of the public comment period, saying that the time required would depend upon the nature of the comments. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the chair of the committee, said that the committee would call Johnson back after the closure of the public period to push for a timeline.

This waiver means that our states can continue to play a leadership role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions from cars.  We applaud EPA’s opening the waiver process, but we want a fast timetable and no stalling.  To that end, we will call EPA back before the Committee as soon as they have closed the comment period on June 15.  We expect action by the middle of this summer.

Mr. Johnson used the word ‘complex’ many times.  The Supreme Court case is not complex.  It is clear.  EPA should grant the waiver to California and the 11 other states who have asked for it, and they should make an endangerment finding that global warming emissions are a danger and will be controlled by law.

—Senator Boxer

Also testifying before the committee was David Doniger, Policy Director and Senior Attorney, Climate Center for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Doniger characterized the Supreme Court’s decision has having four immediate consequences:

  • First, the EPA must decide afresh whether to set greenhouse gas emission standards for new motor vehicles under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act. The Court clearly stated that this decision must be based on the science, and the science only.

  • Second, the decision removes the major obstacle to state initiatives, led by California, to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

  • Third, the Supreme Court’s decision has implications for other pending global warming litigation, with a parallel case on power plants at the top of the list.

  • Fourth, the Supreme Court’s decision has added new momentum to the legislative process.

Resources:

  • Full Committee Hearing on “The Implications of the Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding EPA’s Authorities with Respect to Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act.” (Including archived webcast)

April 24, 2007 in Climate Change, Emissions, Policy | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

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Dear Sen. Boxer,

Poorly thought out and implemented regulations are worse than none at all. Witness the problems the EU is having in meeting their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and the collapse of carbon credit prices below one euro last year because said governments overestimated the amount of CO2 emissions--likely intentionally.

Since these regulations, when they come, will be felt at all levels of society I prefer to wait a little longer and have something that will work well with minimal negative economic impacts. Industry is already moving on this issue, which is as it should be. But as the article notes, the regulations must be consistent and fair so the risks are known.

What we need, more than anything, is a viable replacement for fossil fuels. Until we have something that can actually replace the central economic role they fill, any attempts to restrict CO2 emissions will meet with limited success at best.

This whole issue is a charade on the automakers' part. They're only suing because they've backed themselves into a corner by making HP and 0-60 times their main competitive differentiator. Achieving the cuts CARB is asking for will be a piece of cake once automakers stop pushing minivans with 300 HP and SUVs that seat 8. Does the average person need to go 0-60 in under 7 seconds on their way to work? Claiming the cuts would impose an undue burden on industry is disingenuous at best. Impose the cuts so no automaker can offer ridiculously overweight and overpowered products so consumers will have to base their decision on something else. I know someone will claim that that would be un-American but I would be happy to provide a long list of other items that can't be purchased on the open market.

Cervus -

you are right in saying that Kyoto hasn't delivered the goods. However, this is mostly because a number of governments made to rookie mistake of handing out emissions certificates for free rather than auctioning them off. That has led to low prices and limited interest in secondary trading. However, the principle of emissions certificates is not inherently bad, it just needs to be implemented more intelligently and without an end date.

The only reason improved efficiency and alternate sources of primary energy are being developed right now is because consumers demand it. At some point, you would want that popular will to be formalized in well-considered regulations or laws, because public opinion can be fickle; industry needs firm targets and a level playing field if it is to change its fundamental R&D strategy.

The trick, therefore, will be for CA and the other 10 states to hammer out an open, common regulatory framework for CO2 emissions that other states and the EPA can choose to sign up to at a later date. What you don't want is regulatory balkanization, in which each state goes off in a different direction.

Moreover, given the global nature of the problem, it might make sense for the states drawing up the framework to give a small number of subject matter experts representing interested foreign entities (e.g. the EU) observer status in the deliberations, on a reciprocal basis. That would minimize the chances of anyone getting a free ride or, of protectionist lobbyists hijacking the process.

I would therefore expect at least 18 months of negotiations and public hearings before any CO2 emissions regulation is enacted anywhere in the US - in other words, 2009 at the earliest.

I agree with Rafael that consumer demand will drive alternative energies and more fuel efficient vehicles.

If we could only convince the upcoming automotive growth in India and China to adopt alternative energy sources.


First of all, the Bush administration has no interest in truly complying with the court's decision. They will run out the clock. Any regulations that are implemented will not not occur before 2009.

In the mean time, congress need to pass compherehensive laws requiring reduction in co2 across the board, not just in the area of transportation. Failure to act, while waiting for some sort of action from the Bush administration, is political cowardice. Of course, the Republicans may filibuster any meaningful efforts to address global warming, but at least that will bring the issue up for grabs for the next congressional and Presidential elections.

While some companies are doing some things voluntarily to address the issue, it is naive to think that industry will do anything meaningful in this area. That has been the Bush strategy and, no surprise, it has been a miserable failure. CO2 emissions continue to soar.

I, too, am skeptical about cap and trade, given the European experience. Although it was apparently successful in dealing with SO2 emissions, that was a much easier nut to crack than co2. CO2 isn't just about adding better technology such as scrubbers; CO2 is directly tied to energy use and cannot be fixed by add ons. While sequestration is a technology to address this issue, it may never actually be effective, and will not be ready for serious implementation for at least a decade. We don't have that kind of time.

While these regulations could have a negative impact on GMs bottom line, they will not have an overall negative economic impact. After all, companies like Toyota, which will benefit, has a large employment presence in the United States.


The best replacement for fossil fuels righ t now is conservation and efficiency. We cannot wait until we have a so called replacement for fossil fuels. And let us just say that biofuels have a role here. We must bring our level of consumption down to the level that they could play a meaningful role. Right now, 25% of our corn crop provides ethanol for 3% of our liquid fuels. In the mean time, corn prices have gone up over 50% in the last year. Do the math.

Should we wait for the miracle of cellulosic ethanol? This is still largely in the research stage, waiting for that magic enzyme.

There's no need to discuss regulatory mechanisms and technologies for this issue. US CAFE standards are now the lowest of any developed country, including China. They could be increased 20% immediately with no technical developments required. US automakers would scream about it, but, tough sh!t: that's a problem of their own making.

What happrnrf the last time somerhing simular to this cropped up was saleslots in nevada doing huge bis selling to cal customers,,, and a resultant tanking in sales tax rev...

This is going to backfire in a big way, consumers myself included do not want to drive little econodeath traps. So if the commiefornians mandate fuel economy via CO2 then a LOT of people will not be buying new vehicles. No way I give up the safety and utility of my truck. A new engine costs 5 grand installed that’s with a new transmission I should get 250+k miles out of the original diesel anyways. So you have 2 problems 1. With less new car sales the auto industry takes a huge hit and 2. New cars produce less emission so if people keep their old vehicles because the new models do not meet their expectations then you have only succeeded in creating more pollution. My diesel is a 2005 model that means no particulate filters or cats its 3 inch pipe all the way from the turbo to the tail gate as that was the standard in 2005 for 8000lb+ vehicles. This is still for now a free country where I can CHOSE to drive what I want. I own my vehicle in full baring me wrecking it I have 23 years till it can be classed as an antique. I hear there are laws being debated in Kalifornia to limit the miles per year for vehicles 25 years and older that's why I bring that last comment up. Still how easy is it for any one with a little mechanical know how to unhook there speedometer cable off the transmission case, and just us a portable GPS unit for mileage tracking so you know when to change the oil and what not. Plus the GPS I have outputs speed on screen to the 0.25mph. Yes my vehicle is a 6 passenger SUV. Yellow bowtie 2500 4x4 Suburban a duromax diesel at that still gets 12mpg towing 3000lbs of boat is a testament to diesel. I live in Texas were there are places I frequent that you have to have four wheel drive to get there be it my hunting ranch or driving off road to camp on the beach. Or just tooling around the Hillcounty’s back dirt roads/ trails with my dog and girlfriend on a Saturday afternoon. There is no way some prius is going to tow my Ski Nautique. Speaking of My boat drinks twice the fuel my truck does and the EPA is not all over that like cars. On a given day on Lake Travis running through 30 gallons of 91 octane in an afternoon pulling wake boards is common if not the norm.

California is a large car market and a major consumer of auto fuel. I do not think that this pro oil administration wants to do anything that would reduce the use of fuel in California and reduce the $100b per year profits that the oil industry takes.

Actualy the oil companies are all for much better fuelecon because then not only do they not need new refineries but the can raise prices farther without stromg backlash. The ONLY sticking point is the massive entertainment segmen of the car market and the a;; powerful ciccermom segment.

Eveb rge car makers dont realy care AS LONG AS PEIOKE ARE WILLING RO PAY THE HUGE COSTS...

No bush and gang just want a way to raise real road milage rates without facing serious attacks.

Rhey all pin thier hopes on h2 or ev or hev because it sidesteps these political minefields.


All above is excellent information. Great discussion!

How about making an engine that runs all alternative fuels and all fossil fuels? Such an engine provides a ready market for any alternative fuel. The rest is up to the consumer. Let the people decide. All they have now is a Hobson's choice, gas/diesel. All the alternative fuels and all the technologies should be encouraged, because together they form a much stronger competitor to oil and the flexibility allows future technologies to engage without prohibiting expense impediments to consumers, prohibiting business risk to creators, investors and distributors of alternative fuels and technologies, be it EV, HEV, PHEV, BioDiesel, Ethanol, Methanol, Methane, H2, CGN, Synfuel, etc. To wait for any one technology to be perfect in an imperfect world makes little sense. An engine that runs them all is not being looked into right now. But it potentially solves many problems with the current approach and the debate as to which is the winner fuel or technlogy. All non-oil based fuels are winners! and can be applied in parallel to the extent that their economics allows consumers a choice. The only real problem is politics and the power of oil needs to be taken out of the equation for anything good to succeed.

I hope the waiver takes forever. And never passes.

CO2 is simply NOT a pollutant. Whatever its effects on the atmosphere, its effect is ultra tiny compared to H2O. If you admit that "regulation" of CO2 is OK, how do you "regulate" water? Do you demand the Oceans be drained? How? To where?

Water vapor is at least 16 times more of a GHG per unit as CO2. And its presence in the atmosphere can be thousands of times higher.

For that matter I would love to be able to regulate the hot air emitted by politicians, and that is largely CO2 and H2O.

Proposed regulations would reduce CO2 "emissions" by 30%. Lets see the California politicians stop breathing for 8 hours or so a day. Now that would indeed be progress !!

Seriously, if you want to regulate GHG emissions for global warming and or other pseudo-scientific reasons, do it as a separate Law addressed at that global warming issue.

Then CO2, H2O, CH4, are all the other GHGs can be addressed coherently, or eventually increased or dismissed, without confusing them with the real and valid pollutants which must be removed.

Piggybacking that regulation on top of the real EPA rules will ruin both, especially if the GHG nonsense turns out to be more misguided and wrong thinking than Science which the recent scientific evidence is more and more showing to be the case.

Do you want the real and valid clean-air regs to be a hostage or thrown out when CO2 is revealed not to be the monster the chicken-littles cluck about? When lawyers argue the Law reality and justice have little to do with it. Look at all the real murderers who go Scott free on lawyerly "technicalities".

The CO2 emission standards have every car hating leftist in the state salivating. They look at it as one more way to make cars less appealing to try to get everyone into their socialist public transportation agenda. First they tried starving the road system of money so the roads would fall apart, and traffic would become unbearable. It didn't work. People just bought SUVs to tackle the potholed roads, and nice sound systems to keep them entertained while stuck in traffic. Then they tried to triple the car tax. The governor got voted out of office over it, and the tax repealed. Now it's the C02 emission regulations, so Californians would only have unappealing econo boxes to drive. The Senate transportation committee has also voted to tax vehicles based on C02 emissions. The liberals just don't get it. A bus or train will never match a car for getting from one place to another. People want door to door transportation. Buses and trains are like using a tape drive for storing data on your computer, instead of a harddisk. There's no random access. A national program for reducing CO2 emissions is one thing, but putting that power in the hands of non-scientist, left wing wacho politicians is crazy. These are same liars that ran TV ads proclaiming C02 caused asthma! The politicians don't even know what C02 is. Ask one of them to describe it to you sometime, if you want a good laugh.

Wintermane

There are already vehicles that run on alternative fuels. We used propane back in the 70s and I can buy biodiesel at the filling station.

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