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EPA Denies California Vehicle GHG Waiver; State Will Sue to Overturn Decision

19 December 2007

The US Environmental Agency (EPA) today denied the state of California the waiver required to enable the state to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. Sixteen other states—Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington—have adopted or are in the process of adopting the California regulations.

In announcing the rejection of the waiver, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, “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. 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.

The EPA is relying upon the new CAFE standard of an average 35 mpg by 2020 to deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. President Bush signed the CAFE legislation—contained with the larger energy bill—into law today. The California standards call for 205 g CO2/mile for passenger cars (about 43 mpg for a gasoline vehicle) and 332 g/mile for light trucks (about 27 mpg for a gasoline vehicle) by 2016.

The EPA said that California’s current waiver request is distinct from all prior requests, which covered pollutants that predominantly impacted local and regional air quality. The agency asserted that greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature, unlike the other air pollutants covered by prior California waiver requests. Since these gases contribute to the challenge of global climate change affecting every state in the union, the EPA argued, according to the criteria in section 209 of the Clean Air Act, it did not find that separate California standards are needed to “meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.”

In reaction, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to appeal the decision and pursue every legal opportunity to obtain the waiver.

While the federal energy bill is a good step toward reducing dependence on foreign oil, the President's approval of it does not constitute grounds for denying our waiver. The energy bill does not reflect a vision, beyond 2020, to address climate change, while California's vehicle greenhouse gas standards are part of a carefully designed, comprehensive program to fight climate change through 2050.

It has been nearly two years since we requested the waiver and, now, sixteen other states are following our lead to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase fuel efficiency and help reduce harmful greenhouse gases. A ruling from the US Supreme Court earlier this year made it clear that the US EPA has the authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

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. 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.

—Gov. Schwarzenegger

Under the Federal Clean Air Act, California has the right to set its own tougher-than-federal vehicle emission standards, as long as it obtains a waiver from US EPA. Over the past 30 years the US EPA has granted California more than 40 such waivers, denying none.

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 (ARB) on December 21, 2005. The waiver, allowing California to enact and enforce emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, was requested after the Air Resources Board developed regulations based on a 2002 California law, AB 1493 by Assemblymember Fran Pavley.

That law required California to establish new standards for motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions beginning in model year 2009. The ARB-adopted regulations will phase in and ramp up over eight years to cut global warming emissions from new vehicles by nearly 30% by model year 2016.

In letters sent on April 10, 2006 and October 24, 2006 to President Bush, the Governor reiterated the urgency of approving California's request to address global warming. On April 25, 2007, 16 months after the original waiver request, Governor Schwarzenegger sent a letter to Administrator Johnson informing him of California’s intent to sue after 180 days under the Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedure Act, which provides mechanisms for compelling delayed agency action.

California’s request has been supported by recent judicial decisions.

(A hat-tip to Marcus!)

December 19, 2007 in Climate Change, Emissions, Fuel Efficiency, Policy | Permalink | Comments (42) | TrackBack (0)

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After the President signed the energy bill, I pretty much expected this. I guess we'll see how it stands up in court.

I never knew 2 of anything could be considered a patchwork. Any quilters out there wish to weigh in on how many distinct pieces are required to consider it patchwork?

Courts, schmorts. About 14 months from now the waiver will be granted, and we all know why.

Pretty bad news indeed.

It is clear that as a global polutant, California specific regulation will be tough to defend. The thing is that the supreme court ordered EPA to regulate the CO2 emissions which they haven't done yet. The CAFE standard regulate mileage and cannot be taken as an emission regulation. So that's were they might win eventually if they argue that EPA failed to regulate the CO2 mission, as ordered by the supreme court then they can't deny the right to california to regulate it. The story is not over.

"The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution—not a confusing patchwork of state rules"

Another canard. The Clean Air Act permits states receiving federal aid to use one of two systems: federal or California. This was specifically set up so that automakers wouldn't have to deal with a "patchwork of state rules". There's no way this guy runs the EPA and doesn't know that. Can't wait till this particular crew gets packing. It's unbelievable Americans put up with this BS.

I'm really impressed with Arnold's leadership and perseverance on this. Totally unexpected from an American politician.

The Federal automobile lobby is very busy working to reject the California plan because this would require an even higher mpg factor for the automobile companies to meet.

Rock on Arnold!

Evidently, detroit is run by horses. (as in, you can't force a horse to water. As in, they have no clue what is good for them)

Europe & Japan will see electric cars first. Shorter drives, smarter politics, better educated population, crazy gas prices.

If American car makers want to succeed in Europe... they need to create an electric El Camino. Well not really, but I'd buy one for sure.

Lets stay focused on what is important: cheap, efficient, durable solar cells and cheap, durable batteries. For that we need more research money and a bit of time.

How can the Administration and their political cronies be so short sited? I hope Arnold and the Supreme Court can take care of them swiftly! It is shameful that we have to sue the government bureaucrats to make them actually do their sworn duty!

I think we may see true electric cars powered by next-generation Li-On batteries or eventually supercapacitor battery packs in the USA first. The reason is simple: we can put up large-scale solar and wind turbine power necessary for the big increase in electric power to charge all those electric cars. Europe outside of France is already running into limits of electrical generation (unless the EU adopts the standardized French nuclear reactor design and puts up plants in Germany, UK, Italy and Spain; they'll need to put up wind turbines and wave generators in the Atlantic and North Sea on an unprecedented scale).

Did Stephen Johnson say all that (especially the part about setting the bar high) with a straight face? Is he corrupt? a wimp? the stupidest man on earth? or all three perhaps. This is the head of the EPA? God save our planet!

I still think that neither standard is really going to matter anyway. Between now and 2010, oil prices are going to skyrocket so fast that $5 gas will become commonplace. That will be far more effective than any CO2 or CAFE mandate.

Raymond. I like the way you think regarding powering the US and A with big solar wind.

But I'm sure electric cars will happen in the EU first. They have plenty of electricity generation capability at night time. No.. it won't be all that clean, but its getting cleaner & cleaner. Maybe they could figure out a way to run electricity up from Africa?


BTW.. does anyone know how to convert grams of CO2 / mile to Miles Per Gallon? Got to pull out the old 6.02 x 10^23 constant?

I'm trying to compare the MPG of the 2020 proposal to california's 2012 proposal.

The US administration should lead the war against global warming or get out of the way. Leading means doing more than anybody else. Obviously the current US administration wants to do far less that proposed by California and supported by an increasing number of other US states.

It is sad to see that obstructionism is the hallmark of the current US administration when it comes to the war against global warming. This policy of obstructionism is pursued both domestically and internationally as witnessed by this EPA decision, the filibuster policy of the new Energy Bill and at the Bali summit. Hopefully there will be many more truly ‘green’ DEMs and GOPs after the next election.

In some parts of the world, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. Industry sees opportunities in catering to the tide of green legislation. In the UK, companies like Modec ( http://www.modec.co.uk ) and particularly Smith EV ( http://www.smithelectricvehicles.com ) are being encouraged to cash in on demand for greener transport worldwide.

America seems to instead be fighting to preserve older industrial interests, by slowing down each potential advance. The USA will thereby get left behind. Smith are going to be producing 15,000 electric delivery trucks a year by 2010. Carmakers in China will capture an EV market that the USA is blocking its own workers from participating in. The US government is being extremely shortsighted in seeing greener aims as a threat, whilst the rest of the world sees them as a business opportunity.

Wake up America!

When I read this last night I got really MAD! But, then, I remembered who we a dealing with. An administration that is dead set on not paying attention to fact, in this case about global warming, and goes with protecting industry.

But really, is this going to 'help' the auto industry? Thank goodness California is leading the way in the US or we'd really be in the dark ages.

Even the new U.S. standards are totally inadequate and are riddled with loopholes like flex fuel. The net effect in reducing greenhouse gases will approach zero when the complete turnover of vehicles occurs. If they really care about so called patchwork regulations, perhaps they should adopt the European or Japanese standards.

The Bush administration is moving forward only to the extent that they are being dragged forward. Too bad the California lawsuit doesn't include criminal penalties for crimes against the planet.

Matt -
Burning a gallon of gasoline releases more or less 19.6 pounds of CO2 (depending on exact chemistry of that heterogenous stuff we call "gasoline"). Divide 19.6 by the vehicles MPG, convert to grams, and you get grams/mile.
But Remember! CA's law is (an attempt at - there's more they could do) a comprehensive vehicle GHG program - it is not just mileage! Air conditioner HFCs and tailpipe NO2, and even relative lifecycle GHG emissions of alternative fuels are counted in there too - so it's more than mileage. The Bush Admin is being dishonest (willfully ignorant) when they conflate the two - as confirmed by: numerous states, scientists, lawyers, 1 federal district court, 1 federal appeals court, and...oh yeah, the US Supreme Court.

Maybe, there is some blue sky in the EPA decision. California is failing to meet air quality goals for currently regulated criteria emissions. Just spend sometime in LA and Bakersfield in the summer! Many of the strategies that reduce NOx, Air Toxins, particulates, etc., (e.g., Electrification of transportation and port operations, Diesel to Bio-methane/Hythane/LNG conversions of LDV, MDV, HDV, and Locomotive fleets, and electric hybridization of vehicles) will also reduce GHG emissions and are well within state control or subject to state and lcoal incentives.

California is quite capable of utilizing economic measures under its undisputed and local control (e.g., vehicle registration and licensing fees, business licenses for refueling stations, carbon taxes, etc.,) to accomplish significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

At some point, consumers need to take control of their destiny, and demand industry labeling of products and services for carbon content, so we can avoid buying products or utilizing services from countries or states that do not embrace sustainability and control of Greenhouse gas emissions. For example, if the southeastern states of the U.S. don't care about generating electricity from renewables, and want to continue using cheap pulverized coal plants, and dumping the CO2, particulates, and mercury in the common atmosphere to support their industrial base, than consumers are free to avoid visiting those states, and purchasing products with their high carbon content.

Arnold needs to get more creative, and rely less on less effective command and control measures. California also needs to be more aggressive in exposing the massive HOAX surrounding crop based ethanol as a measure to increase energy security and reduce GHG emissions.

Mean&Green:

Last time I checked, Southern Company (et. al.)was still marketing electric resistance water heaters as more efficient and less polluting than natural gas equivalents. The same kind of thing could happen with electric vehicles (whose batteries could be charged primarily from centralized electricity generated from natural gas.

Sgnificant eforts were made to disclose emissions data via appliance "yellow stickers" to no avail and nothing of that sort is in the just signed energy bill.

California's energy efficiency policies used to be "source-based" but not necessarily source emissions based. Perhaps they should have been. However, it is my impresswon that California's energy efficiency policies have become cost-based. So continue to run up demand for natural gas (hence cost)via centralized electrical generation and eventually electricity wiil monopolize energy. Is that a good plan? Perhaps California and the Feds just need to work out a few kinks.


Mean&Green:

Last time I checked, Southern Company (et. al.)was still marketing electric resistance water heaters as more efficient and less polluting than natural gas equivalents. The same kind of thing could happen with electric vehicles (whose batteries could be charged primarily from centralized electricity generated from natural gas.

Sgnificant eforts were made to disclose emissions data via appliance "yellow stickers" to no avail and nothing of that sort is in the just signed energy bill.

California's energy efficiency policies used to be "source-based" but not necessarily source emissions based. Perhaps they should have been. However, it is my impresswon that California's energy efficiency policies have become cost-based. So continue to run up demand for natural gas (hence cost)via centralized electrical generation and eventually electricity wiil monopolize energy. Is that a good plan? Perhaps California and the Feds just need to work out a few kinks.


God bless California.

This may be just another step for a misguided large democracy

Where can we send our cheques for California's upcoming legal fees?

California has to win the next round.

PS: Quebec will face the same battle (and more) against the Harper federal government in 2008.

Bush only represents the wishes of the powerful in their attempt to retain power over the majority.

My hope for this new legal mandate to increase the CAFE mileage standard is that success is only possible with a nearly complete conversion to electric propulsion.

In the recently passed Omnibus spending bill, subsidies to nuclear power are many billions; a clear signal that automobile-related industries see more profit via hydrogen and fuel cell technology than in the more practical, applicable and thus desirable Plug-in Hybrid vehicle development. Bush is only answering to the powerful in this regard as well. He and the republican party (including all the 2008 republican presidential candidates) are waging war 'upon' the USA.

You guys are all really funny, and totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of global GHG emissions.

China and India are building coal fired electric plants so fast, California’s Carbon output could go to zero next year and be virtually undetectable.

Arnold is another disingenuous, blowhard politician. If he really cared about reducing carbon emissions from automobiles, he'd slap a huge tax on gas in CA. But then he wouldn't get re-elected, and we all know that is all Arnold really cares about.

I would argue that forcing automakers to manufacturer cars that people don’t want, at prices they don’t want to pay, might be the dumbest possible way to reduce gasoline consumption. The original CAFE law helped create the SUV craze; I wonder what unintended consequences the new CAFE law or California’s GHG emission limits will have? But most of you don’t care, do you. As long as your government is forcing those evil people who burn too much gas into the vehicles you have chosen for them, you will be pleased.

Hey Wells:

As if the NRDC/EPRI alliance for PHEV isn't big business?

BT

"Burning a gallon of gasoline releases more or less 19.6 pounds of CO2."

You need to check your math on this one, as there is no way burning a gallon of gasoline releases 19.6 pounds of CO2.

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