California May Soon Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Automobiles

A little noticed provision in the pork-laden 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill provides that the EPA must render a decision on whether California can regulate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles by June 30, 2009.

The legislation states

Not later than June 30, 2009, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall reconsider, and confirm or reverse, the decision to deny the request of the State of California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles.

The Bush administration had rejected California's request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act previously.

Even before the bill passed, a newly inaugurated President Obama on January 26, 2009 directed the EPA to consider California's request.

The financially struggling Big Three automakers might have difficulty meeting the new standards without additional federal assistance.

The EPA held a hearing on the issue on March 5, 2009. Senator Carl Levin (D, Michigan) stated that he opposed the waiver since he favored a national GHG emissions standard. The automakers were conspicuously absent at the hearing perhaps because they were bargaining for a bailout from an administration that supports such measures. The automakers were, however, represented by industry groups. The EPA notice of rulemaking provides that comments may be submitted until April 6, 2009.

Senator Diane Feinstein (D, California) is apparently the lawmaker who inserted the language in the Omnibus bill since she had introduced
similar legislation previously along with Senator Olympia Snowe (R, Maine). Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) supports granting the waiver.

The California vehicle clean air standards have been adopted by thirteen other states and the District of Columbia so that the impact would go well beyond California. If California gets the green light, the regulations could go into effect in short order since they are already written and approved. The regulations could be appealed to a court of course.

While Obama might prefer to have a national standard, it would take much longer to implement at the federal level. Also, while the EPA Adminstrator, Lisa Jackson, has authority to grant the waiver, it is likely that Obama's climate czar, Carol Browner, would be making the decision behind the scenes. Browner was EPA Administrator in the Clinton Administration and has been described as having socialist ties..

There is a certain irony that California, which almost shut down earlier this year because of a burgeoning budget deficit and legislative gridlock, might be in the position of dictating to the automakers how much GHG's their autos can emit at a time when the automakers themselves are essentially bankrupt. And of course, both the automakers and the state are being bailed out by Washington.

Perhaps GM needs to shut down its Hummer line and convert it to building a brand new green vehicle which would meet these new GHG emission standards. The car would be named the "Barack" for obvious reasons. It would run on ethanol as a payback to the Iowans who supported Obama at the Iowa caucuses. It would have a top speed of 39 mph and carry a family of two easily. The buyer could pick any color as long as it is white. And it would, of course, have an unlimited government guaranteed warranty. The question becomes whether the American public would buy it? But then with government control, it might be the only car available.