EPA Revisits Bush-Era Denial of California Tailpipe Emissions Waiver

WASHINGTON, DC, February 6, 2009 (ENS) – In accordance with President Barack Obama’s order in January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider its decision denying California permission to set standards controlling greenhouse gases from motor vehicles.

The waiver request was made by California on December 21, 2005, to allow the state the right to control greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The request was denied by then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on March 6, 2008.

On January 26, less than a week after taking office, President Obama requested that EPA revisit the matter of the denial.

“EPA has now set in motion an impartial review of the California waiver decision,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “It is imperative that we get this decision right, and base it on the best available science and a thorough understanding of the law.”

The Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to allow California to adopt its own emission standards for motor vehicles due to the seriousness of the state’s air pollution challenges.

Tailpipe emissions contain the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. (Photo by Daniel Olinick)

The EPA must approve a waiver, however, before California’s rules may go into effect. There is a long-standing history of EPA granting waivers to the state of California.

EPA believes that there are significant issues regarding the agency’s denial of the waiver. Jackson said, “The denial was a substantial departure from EPA’s longstanding interpretation of the Clean Air Act’s waiver provisions.”

EPA received on January 21, 2009, a letter from California outlining several issues for Administrator Jackson to review and reconsider about the previous denial of the waiver.

Should the EPA grant the waiver, California, and 13 other states will begin a program to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles 30 percent by 2016.

EPA will take public comment concerning the reconsideration of the waiver for a period of 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. There will also be a public hearing to be held in March in Washington, DC.

“Today’s decision is a return to sanity by an agency whose fairness and balance had been sabotaged by the partisan extremism of the Bush Administration,” said California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.

“This is but a first step, but it signals that this EPA has a renewed commitment to sound science and to rule of law,” he said.

The regulations in question were developed under California’s 2002 vehicle greenhouse gas emissions reduction law AB 1493 authored by then-Assemblymember Fran Pavley, the first global warming law in the nation.

The California Air Resources Board adopted the Pavley regulations in 2005.

Pavley, a Democrat, was elected to the California State Senate in November 2008, where she now chairs the Natural Resources and Water Committee.

The reductions achieved by the Pavley regulations constitute an important element of the California’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020 enacted into law in 2006.

The Air Resources Board approved the Scoping Plan for this effort in December. It is the nation’s first comprehensive approach to address climate change that draws upon every sector of a state’s economy.

“California has led the way on global warming,” said Attorney General Brown, “and the state should be allowed to continue in its leadership role in reducing automobile emissions and addressing global warming.”

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