Sacramento Bee. California hybrid owners looking forward to being able to use the HOV lane (earlier post) starting January 1 are going to have to wait: the necessary federal waiver is not only missing, it may never appear.
The permitting process was still pending a waiver from the federal government. And getting congressional approval for that waiver had turned out to be a much more convoluted proposition for California than the environmental organizations and a bipartisan group of elected officials behind the legislation, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, thought it would be.
It may be months before the waiver comes, and if the debate in Washington goes on long enough, it may not go into effect at all by the time California’s pilot project is set to expire.
The federal government says states need a waiver to tinker with car-pool lanes because the lanes are funded by the federal portion of the gas tax. A waiver was tucked into the omnibus transportation bill before Congress. But with a war on and election year wrangling, the package stalled. In the meantime, Ford and other American carmakers whose hybrid models don't meet the California law’s 45 miles per gallon and near-zero emission standards began pushing to block or weaken the standards.
California isn’t prepared to just roll the dice and let its hybrid program go forward without a waiver, as at least one state, Virginia, is doing. If it did, the federal government could retaliate by withholding billions of dollars in transportation funding. State officials say California has about 40 percent of the nation’s high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes.
Great idea. Let’s remove incentives for fuel efficiency.