The Bush Administration’s five-year plan for increasing fuel efficiency released last week has ignited outrage from many California lawmakers. California Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr. called the plan a “covert assault” on California’s landmark tailpipe greenhouse gas regulations.
The Department of Transportation unveiled the plan Tuesday to implement requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates an increase in Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards.
For passenger cars, the proposal would increase fuel economy from the current 27.5 miles per gallon to 35.7 mpg by 2015. For light trucks, the proposal calls for increases from 23.5 mpg in 2010 to 28.6 mpg in 2015.
“This proposal is historically ambitious, yet achievable,” said Mary Peters, secretary of transportation in a speech Tuesday. “It will help us all breathe a little easier by reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable.”
But for California officials who are in the middle of a battle with the administration over the state’s ability to set its own tailpipe emissions standards, the proposal is a trojan horse.
“We’re pleased to see any kind of reduction in fuel consumption but hidden within this 418-page document is a poison pill,” said Stanley Young, spokesperson for the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Buried on page 378, the plan proposes to preempt “any state regulation regulating tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.”
“These proposed rules will expressly rip away from California the ability to set greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipes of cars,” Young said. “The Bush administration is determined to limit California’s right to regulate emissions.”
California Attorney General Brown released a statement Tuesday in which he condemned the plan for contradicting the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which established that tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions constitute a pollutant and therefore should be regulated.
“This fuel economy plan, while attractive on the surface, is a shameful and unlawful assault on California’s landmark vehicle emissions standards,” Brown said in a press release.
California began its battle with the administration in 2002 with the passage of Assembly Bill 1493, which aimed to specifically regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions rather than set a fuel economy requirement. The bill requires the regulations go into effect for the 2009 model year and would force car companies to either sell a separate fleet of vehicles in California or achieve higher standards across the board.
The state applied to the EPA in 2005 for a waiver under the Clean Air Act allowing California to set its own regulations. Sixteen other states were poised to follow California’s lead pending the outcome of the waiver decision.
The federal government initially argued that neither the EPA nor the states had the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions, but the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA negated that argument.
The EPA then changed tactics and denied California’s waiver request in December on the grounds that California’s situation is not “compelling and extraordinary” as required under the waiver provision of the Clean Air Act. The EPA also justified its decision by arguing that individual state plans were unnecessary because the Energy Independence and Security Act recently signed by the president is a national solution to our energy problems.
“It’s about time the Bush Administration began responding to the threat of climate change – but it is certainly not productive to limit the progressive action California has taken to reduce vehicle emissions,” said Anne Warden, spokesperson for Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif). “California has led the nation in combating climate change,, and Congress should support our state’s efforts.”
California filed suit against the EPA in January on the grounds that the agency has no legal or technical justification for denying the waiver request. The lawsuit challenges the EPA’s assertion that California does not meet “compelling and extraordinary” conditions as well as points out that California’s emission standards would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by double the amount of the federal plan, according to CARB.
The Ninth District Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear additional arguments in the case May 14.
“In the meantime, this [Department of Transportation plan] is yet another hurdle California will have to jump in order to enforce itsregulations,” Young said.
ALYSOUN BONDE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.