EPA Grants Landmark California Emissions Waiver

EPA has granted California the waiver to implement its landmark clean cars program to cut global warming pollution from vehicles by 30 percent by 2016.

Granting California the waiver is one step toward carrying out the historic agreement President Barack Obama announced in May to implement federal greenhouse gas and mileage standards for model years 2012-2016.

California’s standards, which start in 2009, will give the state a jumpstart on reducing global warming pollution while the federal government develops national standards that deliver the benefits of the California program nationwide. Fourteen states are poised to follow California’s early lead. Together, California and the 14 states will cover roughly 40 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet.

California requested the normally routine Clean Air Act waiver from EPA in 2005. The request was denied by the Bush administration in 2008. The decision by the Bush administration was based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act finding that California did not have a need for its greenhouse gas emission standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” On Jan. 26, 2009, shortly after taking office, Obama directed EPA to revisit the denial.

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

Jackson said the 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. More importantly, this decision reinforces the historic agreement on nationwide emissions standards developed by a broad coalition of industry, government and environmental stakeholders earlier this year.”

“This announcement is a breath of fresh air for Californians,” said Roland Hwang, transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “U.S. EPA’s long-overdue waiver puts the federal seal of approval on California’s leadership to curb global warming pollution from tailpipe emissions. President Obama understands the urgency of addressing our climate challenge and reducing our oil dependence. These standards will play a pivotal role in helping the auto industry transition to make the cars we need for America’s clean energy future.”

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