EPA Denies California Vehicle Emissions Standards Waiver Request

On December 19, 2007, United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson announced his agency had denied California’s request for a waiver that would allow the state to implement its greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles. In explaining his decision, Johnson argued that recently enacted federal energy legislation establishes national vehicle efficiency standards of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and that this unified standard is preferable to a state-by-state approach. Johnson also said that in making its request, California failed to demonstrate the waiver was required to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions” within the state, given the global nature of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Governor Schwarzenegger of California responded to the EPA’s decision by saying California’s standards are still necessary because the new federal requirements do not go far enough in addressing greenhouse gas emissions. On January 2, 2008, California filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA's decision.

California’s proposed standards would be gradually phased in between model-years 2009 and 2016, and by model-year 2016, would require reductions of tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles of approximately 30 percent. California and 16 other states are poised to adopt the standards. However, before these states can act, the federal EPA must grant California’s waiver request.

Johnson’s decision comes in the wake of two court rulings that supported implementation of the standards. On December 12, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Ishii ruled against a group of automobile manufacturers challenging California’s authority to set and implement greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles. A similar ruling was issued earlier in the year in Vermont against automobile industry plaintiffs challenging that state’s authority to adopt the California standards.

EPA Press Release
California Governor's Office Press Release
Map of States with Greenhouse Gas Vehicle Standards