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Jason_Pic130To follow up on an earlier story, the EPA has granted California’s request for exemption from federal tailpipe emissions standards. The decision is effective immediately for California plus 13 other states and Washington DC. It allows them to regulate emissions for model years 2009-2011, one year before the federal standards take effect.

Says EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, “This decision puts the law and science first…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.” In another clear swipe at Jackson’s predecessor (and by extension, the Bush administration), EPA’s site added, “With the decision to grant the California waiver, EPA returns to its traditional legal interpretation of the Clean Air Act that has been applied consistently during the past 40 years.”

Only a month ago, President Obama announced a new federal standard—35.5 MPG by 2016, taking effect in 2012. California’s target is virtually identical, but this waiver allows them to set earlier targets. As always, companies will pass the cost on to consumers. When the federal standard takes effect in 2016, consumers will pay $1,300 more per vehicle. An AP article reported that “requiring the industry to meet 31.6 mpg by 2015 would cost nearly $47 billion.” Naturally, a higher target would raise the cost.

As expected, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) disagreed with the decision. NADA’s Chairman, John McEleney, issued the following statement: “EPA’s decision to reverse its 2008 denial of California’s request for a pre-emption waiver is sadly a triumph of politics over good common sense…moreover, with its action today, the Obama administration has effectively ceded the long-term setting of national fuel economy standards to unelected California regulators.” An earlier report, authored by NADA, mentioned that, “A state-by-state patchwork of regulations would be complicated to comply with and would result in direct conflicts, as the federal government and CARB battle for regulatory supremacy.”

With an ambitious (some would say overly-ambitious) national emissions standard in place, the state exemption was unnecessary. It sets the stage for multiple regulations, direct conflicts, and undue stress on an industry that’s already scraping by. Whatever happens, consumers will pay the price.

For reference, the “exemptees” include: California, Connecticut, Arizona, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington DC. 

Do you agree? Disagree? Think my brain's been granted an exemption? Leave a comment below or e-mail me directly.

Note: The preceding represents the view of the editor and not necessarily ECN.

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