EPA to revisit California bid to regulate vehicular greenhouse gases

The US Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider its decision to deny California permission to regulate motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, the federal regulator said on Feb. 6.

The move was in response to US President Barack H. Obama's Jan. 26 request for the agency to revisit the matter in detail, it said. EPA also received a letter from the California Air Resource Board on Jan. 21 requesting another look at then-administrator Stephen L. Johnson's March 6, 2008, decision to reject the state's request, it indicated.

"We feel strongly that under its new leadership, EPA will recognize that the decision made by the former administrator to deny California the waiver to enforce our clean car law was flawed, factually and legally, in fundamental ways," CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said.

EPA noted on Feb. 6 that the Clean Air Act gives the agency authority to let California adopt its own motor vehicle emissions standards because it faces serious air pollution challenges. It said that it considers Johnson's denial a substantial departure from its longstanding interpretation of the law's waiver provisions.

"EPA has now set in motion an impartial review of the California waiver decision. It is imperative that we get this decision right, and base it on the best available science and a thorough understanding of the law," said Lisa P. Jackson, the agency's current administrator.

Business groups considered the announcement bad news. "We do not support a patchwork of state or regional policies to regular global climate change. A national, uniform policy is needed," a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute said.

"Automakers support a nationwide program that bridges both state and federal concerns, and that moves all stakeholders forward when it comes to reducing emissions and greenhouse gas," a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers indicated.

"We obviously are not pleased they are doing this. We thought the Bush administration's decision was correct. The last thing we should be doing now is creating a patchwork of regulatory fiefdoms around the country as states make their own rules. Automakers are facing significant challenges already," a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers told OGJ Washington Pulse.

The agency said that it would accept comments about reconsidering the waiver for 60 days. It also plans to hold a public hearing on the matter in Washington in March.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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