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A Few Miles Closer to that EPA Waiver

img_1777.JPGContinuing his methodical repudiation of Bush administration policies, President Obama today took California’s long-delayed request to regulate tailpipe emissions off the shelf. The President ordered an immediate review of the state’s request for a waiver to supersede federal requirements with its own, stricter ones.

We should be just as clear about what didn’t happen, however. He did not throw a thunderbolt at the EPA and reverse the previous administration’s denial of said waiver. He essentially told new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to put it back on top of the stack in her in-box. Jackson had already promised a “speedy review” of California’s request, during questioning at her Senate confirmation hearing. “Speedy” is a relative term, however and the reality is that it will likely be months before we get a final decision.

Though there is little doubt what that decision will be, the President did leave room for the EPA to soften the blow to the destitute auto industry. Automakers claim that the waiver will cost them billions in new investments and add an average of $5,000 to the price of new cars.

There’s a lot on the line for California, which had taken the EPA to court over the waiver. The state’s proposed tailpipe emission standards (known as the Pavley regulations) account for nearly 20% of the hoped-for CO2 reductions in the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB-32) and 70% of the attendant economic gains (estimated to be $11 billion).

Some reactions to the White House executive order today…

From the Governor:

“With this announcement from President Obama less than a week into his administration, it is clear that California and the environment now have a strong ally in the White House. Allowing California and other states to aggressively reduce their own harmful vehicle tailpipe emissions would be a historic win for clean air and for millions of Americans who want more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly cars.”

From Bernadette del Chiaro, Environment California:

“After being stuck in reverse for eight years when it comes to clean energy and global warming policy, President Obama has taken America from 0 to 60 in six days. From here on, science and not special interests will be in the driver’s seat in America.”

 You get the idea. It was high fives all around and a cavalcade of automotive metaphors in Sacramento today.