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California Auto Emissions Regulations Approved By EPA

July 1, 2009

California celebrated on Tuesday when the Obama administration approved their longtime bid to sanction their own stringent requirements for vehicle emissions, a conclusion right in sync with a national goal to increase fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases causing climate change, Reuters reported.

These standards are not only effective in California, but also immediately active in 13 other states and Washington D.C., officials at the Environmental Protection Agency said.

By honoring this request, the EPA said it identified California’s need for a strict emissions program that addressed limits on climate-warming gases.

The national plan shares California’s goal for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The EPA waiver permits the state to implement standards for 2009-2011, prior to the federal goals taking effect, but manufacturers should transition to these goals with ease.

Additional vehicle regulations in California include car windows that reflect more sun to reduce need for air conditioning, and required checks on tire pressure.

The EPA briefly remarked that the decision indicated a return to the “traditional legal interpretation of the Clean Air Act,” an obvious hit to the Bush administration, which shied away from authorizing this waiver and at impressing any obligatory economy-wide restrictions on climate-warming emissions.

New legislation proposed to curb climate change was approved by the House of Representatives just four days prior to the announcement. More than a month ago, Obama demanded the failing auto industry should reduce emissions and improve gas mileage.

“This decision puts the law and science first. After review of the scientific findings, and another comprehensive round of public engagement, I have decided this is the appropriate course under the law,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.

In 2005, California initially requested the typically routine Clean Air Act waiver from EPA.  The Bush Administration rejected the proposal in 2008.

Obama encouraged EPA to revisit the rejection soon after taking office in January.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California applauded the EPA decision.

“After being asleep at the wheel for over two decades, the federal government has finally stepped up and granted California its nation-leading tailpipe emissions waiver,” he said.

The decision will ramp up the state’s blossoming green economy, Schwarzenegger said, create new jobs and “bring Californians the cars they want while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Governors from the other affected states also commended the decision.

“The decision is living proof that there is new leadership in Washington,” said New York Governor David Paterson.

The American Petroleum Institute, a leader oil industry interest group, was critical: “Using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases would impose costly requirements for hundreds of thousands of businesses, large and small, as well as schools, offices and buildings across the United States.”

Environmentalists were triumphant. David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a blog:

“These national standards will be a win for everyone. We’ll have cleaner cars that cut dangerous global warming pollution nationwide … The car makers will get the practical national uniformity they’ve been craving. And we’ll help them get back to health by making cars that fit the market in a world of higher oil prices and global warming.”

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