EPA Chief Says New Pollution Rules for Cars Only the Beginning of Greenhouse Gas Regulations

By Matt Cover, Staff Writer
Apr. 02, 2010

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency’s inaugural regulations on greenhouse gas emissions on cars were only “the first” of such regulations, promising that her agency would move “deliberately” to institute regulations in other areas of the economy as well.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call on Thursday to announce the new regulations on cars and light trucks, Jackson explained that – for now – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was only regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks.

“These are the first regulations that cover greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” she said. “Certainly it shows that it can be done, but I think it shows more than that.”

“It shows that it can be done in a thoughtful way that doesn’t turn the economy on its ear, that doesn’t cause the sky to fall,” she said, echoing a similar statement made by President Barack Obama when defending his recently passed health care overhaul.

Jackson noted that the Clean Air Act says that additional regulations are coming because the GHG emissions are labeled as a pollutant. She added, however, that the EPA would move “rather slowly” to allow states to deal with the impact of increased federal regulations “when and if they come.”

“Certainly, the Clean Air Act talks about additional regulation needed once greenhouse gas pollution is acknowledged to be exactly that, and I think we have done everything we’ve committed to doing in terms of giving clarity about the timetable and the scope of rulemaking and our desire to move very deliberately and actually somewhat slowly so that states and EPA can be ready to deal with additional regulations when and if they come,” said Jackson.

The new regulations mark the first time the EPA has regulated GHG emissions from any source, as well as the first time it has weighed in on fuel efficiency, an area usually regulated by the Department of Transportation.

Under the regulations, which begin in 2011, automakers would be required to reduce fleet-wide GHG emissions steadily each year, beginning at 295 grams of carbon dioxide per mile and culminating in a cap of no more than 250 grams per mile by the 2016 model year.

Automakers are allowed to use a fleet-wide average, meaning that they can use reductions from smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to offset the higher GHG emissions from larger cars and trucks, which are often their highest-selling vehicles.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) criticized the EPA move, saying there was no need for the agency to add regulations to the already struggling auto industry, and pointing out in a statement that Transportation Department regulations already got the job done.

“Achieving greater fuel efficiency and lessening dependence on foreign oil are two policy goals that I support,” Inhofe said. “We have many ways of achieving these goals without imposing a backdoor energy tax on consumers created by the EPA.”

Inhofe, a consistent skeptic of anthropogenic – man-made global warming -- said that the EPA’s new regulations were an attempt by the agency to get its foot in the door so it could regulate other sources of GHG emissions in the broader economy.

“As the EPA Administrator admitted to me, EPA’s regulations won’t have any meaningful climate impacts,” Inhofe said. “This is the initial step in EPA’s regulatory barrage stemming from the endangerment finding.”

Al Mannato, fuels issues manager for the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association of the oil and natural gas industry, echoed Inhofe, explaining that the EPA’s action was the first step in expanding its regulatory authority over all GHG emitters. He noted that there was little difference between the new EPA standards and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards.

“The NHTSA [National Highway Transportation Safety Administration] CAFE standards get you virtually all the way there,” Mannato said. “There’s just a very, very small difference between the standard as EPA passed it and the standard as NHTSA passed it, and, in fact, you could have made the NHTSA standard a little more stringent and then you wouldn’t need [EPA].”

“The action by EPA was unnecessary and they took that action intentionally and expressly so that they could begin regulating GHG under the Clean Air Act,” he said.

Mannato also echoed Lisa Jackson, who told reporters on the conference call that any additional regulations of GHG emissions would not start until after January 2011, when the new car regulations kick in. Mannato explained that once the car regulations were in place, they would trigger new regulations of other GHG emitters.

“Once the care rules went into place the triggering event for regulating [GHG emissions] under the Clean Air Act would be January of next year,” he said. “It’s uncertain where else they’re going to go with this.”

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