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!)