President wants car-based greenhouse gas rules, mileage standards

| 1/26/2009

President Obama signed two executive orders Monday aimed at cutting emissions, although the rules will apply to cars, light trucks and SUVs only.

Each executive order affects cars and light trucks, but not commercial vehicles. Monday’s announcement, however, could signal the incoming administration’s proactive approach toward emissions regulation.

The actions include investigating the Environmental Protection Agency’s denial of a greenhouse gas emissions waiver to California and calling for the Department of Transportation to institute new fuel-mileage standards for personal vehicles by 2011.

Obama wants a hard look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 decision denying California’s request for a waiver to enforce tougher greenhouse gas emissions standards on new cars and light trucks than currently enforced nationally. That decision was made under Stephen Johnson, the previous administration’s EPA head.

California and a number of other states – up to as many as 18 according to media reports – plan to enforce the new standards on new cars and trucks.

Referencing the previous administration’s dealings with California, Obama said, “Instead of standing as a partner, Washington stood in their way.” Obama was flanked in the White House East Room by newly minted cabinet members EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

“We will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead,” Obama said.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE standards, are managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the DOT.

Several elected officials issued statements supporting Obama’s actions, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, who said, “President Obama is taking the nation in a decisive new direction that will receive broad support across the country.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, said Obama’s comments were “music to my ears.”

“I have long said that granting California the waiver so that California and 18 other states can address tailpipe emissions from cars is the best first step the president can take to combat global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Boxer said. “It is so refreshing to see that the president understands that science must lead the way.”

Obama’s first days as president appear to have signaled a new era in environmental action.

The White House, for instance, lists the installment of an economy-wide cap-and-trade program under its environmental and energy agenda at Such a program would require every business, trucks included, to meet specific emissions standards or to buy or trade emissions credits in order to meet federal requirements.

Just this past week, the EPA officially allowed CARB to begin enforcing its regulation on reefers. Beginning in July, trucks with reefers must be registered with CARB before operating in California and must meet new standards based on a seven-year schedule.

The EPA’s Jackson, who was confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 22, wrote a memo the following day to the EPA’s 18,000 employees. In the memo, Jackson highlighted five priorities, beginning with “reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“These challenges are indeed immense in scale and urgency,” Jackson wrote. “But as President Obama said, they will be met. I look forward to joining you at work Monday to begin tackling these challenges together.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer