Senate panel OKs bill on EPA’s denial of California waiver request

| 5/22/2008

A bill proposed in the U.S. Senate to overturn the EPA’s waiver denial for a California tailpipe emissions law is gaining traction.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved Sen. Barbara Boxer’s legislation 10-9. The bill would overturn Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson’s December 2007 denial of California’s request for a waiver to enforce a tough standard for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

According to California officials, 14 other states also have approved California’s tailpipe emissions limits for new cars and light trucks, and additional states have also considered approving the law.

California has special permission under the U.S. Clean Air Act to enact its own air quality standards, although the EPA must grant waivers in some circumstances.

The greenhouse gas rule wouldn’t affect heavy-duty trucks, but the political battle over its enforcement could indicate the direction of future emissions rules from states and nationally. California is awaiting an EPA waiver ruling for a proposed reefer rule and is working on several additional truck emission rules that could be adopted by other states.

Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama all have said they would support granting the waiver if elected.

The news was welcomed by California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols.

“We applaud the fact that Senator Boxer’s bill to overturn administrator Johnson’s illegal denial of California’s waiver request made it out of the committee,” Nichols said in a statement issued Wednesday. “This is a significant step forward but only one skirmish in the battle to secure our rights and protect the environment. Fourteen states representing almost half the vehicles in the nation and tens of millions of consumers need clean cars now that reduce greenhouse gases and save money at the pump.”

 – By Charlie Morasch, staff writer