EPA Approves California Emissions Waiver

by | Jul 1, 2009

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ghgreductionsThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted California a waiver, enabling the state to enforce its stricter tailpipe emissions standards for new motor vehicles, beginning with the 2009 model year. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia plan to follow California’s lead.

“This waiver is consistent with the Clean Air Act as it’s been used for the last 40 years and supports the prerogatives of the 13 states and the District of Columbia who have opted to follow California’s lead,” stated EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The California Air Resources Board originally requested the waiver in December 2005, which was denied by the EPA in 2007 under the Bush Administration. Earlier this year the air board requested that the EPA reconsider its waiver denial. A Presidential Memorandum directed the EPA to assess whether denial of the waiver based on California’s application was appropriate in light of the Clean Air Act.

Automakers will be required to start phasing in more fuel-efficient vehicles immediately, with a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by 2016, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

According to a study by the California Air Resources Board, the law will add $1,032 to the cost of a new vehicle by 2016, reports the Mercury News. Stanley Young, a spokesman for the air board told the newspaper that they expect the cost to be offset in two to three years by savings in gasoline.

Car makers wanted a national standard, saying that a quilt of state standards would be too difficult to meet, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In May, President Obama said the federal government would copy California’s vehicle greenhouse reduction standards by 2016, but those federal rules don’t begin to take effect for three years, reports the Mercury News.

The national policy is aimed at both increasing fuel economy (to 35.5 MPG by 2016) and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standard covers model years 2012-2016.  When the national program takes effect, California has committed to allowing automakers, who show compliance with the national program to also be deemed in compliance with state requirements, said the EPA.

Dave McCurdy, the president and chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement, to the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog: “President Obama’s decision last month to create a single national program for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards moves us towards a policy that ensures that consumers in all 50 states have access to highly fuel-efficient vehicles at an affordable price.”

According to a report released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the 13 states that have adopted California’s Clean Car Standards to reduce tailpipe emissions, approved by the EPA, would save hundreds of dollars annually at the gas pump while reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gases.  The states — Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — represent approximately one quarter of the U.S. vehicle fleet and vehicle miles traveled, reports EDF.

The new report, Saving Fuel, Saving Money, Saving Our Climate, compares automobile fleets under two scenarios for years 2010 to 2030. The first scenario is based on current and projected federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. The second scenario is based on implementation of California’s vehicle greenhouse gas performance standards (i.e., Clean Car Standards) through 2020, with continued progress through 2030.

EDF said these Clean Car Standards can be achieved using existing technologies, including alternative fuels, advanced tire technology, engine adjustments and improved air conditioning systems.

The analysis features aggregate and state-specific results for the states that have already adopted the standards. The study finds that the 13 states together will avoid consuming 16 billion gallons of fuel in 2030, saving drivers $40 billion in fuel costs based on an average gas price of $2.50.  Depending on future gas prices and actual miles driven, and after subtracting estimated costs of vehicles to comply with standards, drivers of 2030 model cars will gain net benefits between $33 and $560; drivers of light duty trucks will enjoy net benefits between $340 and $1,390, according to the report.

The study also indicates that in addition to fuel savings, the standards will avoid 100 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 alone, and nearly one billion tons of emissions between 2010 and 2030. Cutting one billion tons of pollution is roughly equivalent to eliminating two years worth of California’s emissions from all sources, based on 2004 estimates of 484 million metric tons.

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