Tight Auto Curbs Ok'd

U.s. Backs Calif. Rules, Frees Md., Other States To Follow

July 01, 2009|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

The Obama administration granted California permission Tuesday to begin enforcing its stricter auto emissions standards, paving the way for Maryland and other states to also curb tailpipe emissions, considered a major culprit in climate change.

Under an agreement reached among the governments, industry and environmentalists, the federal government will adopt the California standards and begin enforcing them nationwide in 2012.

The accord means that California, as well as Maryland and a dozen other states that also formulated their own plans, will move modestly ahead of schedule, with the most efficiency achieved by 2016 - when the average miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks sold across the country will be 35.5.

Maryland will begin enforcing its plan with the 2011 model year, just ahead of the national rules and two years behind California, according to the state Department of Environment.

Gov. Martin O'Malley called the decision "a common-sense approach to protecting the environment and investing in our clean-energy economy."

Local environmentalists applauded the news, even if it was expected. President Obama had said last month he would impose national standards matching California's.

The limits will reduce Maryland's global warming pollution by 24.7 million metric tons, about the same as eliminating pollution from 4.5 million cars for a year, according to Environment Maryland, which had fought to pass the standards in the General Assembly two years ago. An analysis by the group shows consumers could save more than $4.8 billion at the pump by 2020.

"This is great news because it will help kick our dependence on oil, reduce global-warming pollution, and save consumers money at the pump," said Tommy Landers, the group's policy advocate.

California first sought a waiver from federal rules from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2005, and more than a dozen other states moved to followed suit. But the Bush administration refused to grant the waiver last year.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said Tuesday's announcement "supports the prerogatives of the 13 states and the District of Columbia who have opted to follow California's lead. More importantly, this decision reinforces the historic agreement on nationwide emissions standards developed by a broad coalition of industry, government and environmental stakeholders earlier this year."

Automakers had been concerned that granting California a waiver would leave them struggling with two sets of standards and had sued to stop the plan. The agreement ends the litigation.

"President Obama's decision last month to create a single national program for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards moves us toward a policy that ensures that consumers in all 50 states have access to highly fuel-efficient vehicles at an affordable price," said Dave McCurdy, president and chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "We are hopeful the granting of this waiver will not undermine the enormous efforts put forth to create the national program."

Agreement details

* Average miles per gallon will rise 5 percent nationally from 2012 to 2016, with California, Maryland, Washington and a dozen other states moving slightly ahead of schedule.

* Every state will be on the same page by 2016, with cars and light trucks averaging 35.5 miles per gallon.

* Environmental groups estimate the limits will cut Maryland's global warming pollution by about the same amount as removing 4.5 million cars from the road for a year.

* Nationally, the standards are expected to reduce oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million metric tons.

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