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Obama EPA Grants California Emissions Waiver

Following through on earlier promises, the Environmental Protection Agency today approved a request by the state of California to fight global warming by reining in auto emissions. Because 13 other states and the District of Columbia have jumped on California’s waiver proposal, the move effectively creates a new national emissions standard that will force the nation’s automakers to make more fuel efficient vehicles.

The Los Angeles Times lays out the significance:

Today’s decision sets the stage for the proposed national vehicle emissions standards that President Obama announced in May: New cars and trucks sold in the U.S. will be required to improve their fuel efficiency gradually over the next seven years, reaching an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 — a 40% improvement over the current 25 mpg level. The federal government agrees to adopt California’s standards as its own, and the state agrees not to toughen the standards before 2017. Automakers agree to drop lawsuits against California’s standards.

California has been pushing the stricter greenhouse gas standards for five years, but the EPA under the Bush administration sided with the auto industry in rejecting them. The argument was that the Clean Air Act doesn’t govern auto emissions — an interpretation that new EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has rejected outright. “This waiver is consistent with the Clean Air Act as it’s been used for the last 40 years,” Jackson said Tuesday in a statement.

Now if only the administration would apply the same logic to the Clean Water Act, it could end mountaintop mining as well.

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