Thu, May 23

EPA clears way for states to establish own standards for greenhouse gases

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Arizona and other states permission Tuesday to enact their own regulations to reduce "greenhouse gas' emissions from cars and trucks.

Barring some last-minute legislative maneuvering, that removes the final hurdle to the state finally imposing the rules for vehicles sold in Arizona beginning with the 2012 model year.

The state Senate approved a measure earlier this month to rescind the power of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to implement the regulations without specific legislative authorization. But Rep. Ray Barnes, R-Phoenix, who chairs the House Environment Committee, refused to give the measure a hearing.

Napolitano directed DEQ in 2006 to adopt the same greenhouse gas emission standards which had previously been approved the prior year by the California Air Resources Board.

Those rules do not ban the sale of specific vehicles. Instead they require each manufacturer to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions of all the cars and trucks in its fleet sold in Arizona.

The eventual reduction goal is 37 percent by 2016.

Some vehicles still could pollute more -- as long as sufficient numbers of cars and trucks that exceed the reduction also are sold.

The rules provoked a lot of opposition, especially from the car companies.

An economic expert hired by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers pegged the additional cost of the rules when fully implemented at about $6,000 per vehicle. But DEQ, relying on estimates from California, concluded prices will go up less than $1,100, an amount the agency says will be more than offset over the life of the vehicle because of greater fuel efficiency.

Until now, though, the Arizona regulations, along with those from California on which they were modeled, were legally meaningless.

That's because Stephen Johnson, EPA administrator in the Bush administration, refused last year to grant the necessary waiver to let states set their own greenhouse gas standards.

On Tuesday, though, Lisa Jackson, Johnson's successor under President Obama, reversed course.

"The decision puts science first,' Jackson said in a prepared statement. She said allowing the waiver is the "appropriate course' after reviewing scientific findings and getting further public input.

The decision to grant California's waiver automatically helps Arizona and 12 other states and the District of Columbia who have adopted the California rules. That's because federal law allows states to have one of two standards: the federal standard or that adopted by California, which historically has been allowed - with federal waivers -- to have more stringent regulations.

At the moment there are no federal standards for greenhouse gases, though the Obama administration has since announced it will have its own rules governing vehicles beginning with the 2012 model year.

An EPA spokeswoman said her agency is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation and will unveil its own standards later this year.

An aide to Gov. Jan Brewer did not have immediate comment on what the governor thinks of the regulations.