EPA Grants Greenhouse Gas Waiver to California

July 01, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 30 granted California's request for a waiver that lets the state enforce its own greenhouse gas emissions standards—currently more stringent than federal standards. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cited the original goal of the Clean Air Act in making her decision, saying that Congress always intended for California to "serve as a pioneer and a laboratory for the nation in setting new motor vehicle emission standards."

California originally requested the waiver in December 2005, but in 2008 the request was denied by the EPA under the Bush administration, based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act that California did not need such standards to "meet compelling and extraordinary conditions." In January 2009, President Barack Obama directed the EPA to reassess the waiver request.

Jackson says she made her decision after a review of "an extensive record of scientific and technical evidence," prior decision documents, and testimony from public hearings.

In that decision, she wrote, "The legal framework for this decision stems from the waiver provision first adopted by Congress in 1967 and later modified in 1977….Congress recognized that California could serve as a pioneer and a laboratory for the nation in setting new motor vehicle emission standards. Congress intentionally structured this waiver provision to restrict and limit EPA's ability to deny a waiver, and did this to ensure that California had broad discretion in selecting the means it determined best to protect the health and welfare of its citizens."

The verdict was lauded by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said, "This decision is a huge step for our emerging green economy that will create thousands of new jobs and bring Californians the cars they want while reducing greenhouse gas emissions….a greener, cleaner future has finally arrived."

Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California's emissions standards. Those states are Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The EPA decision is in line with President Obama's announcement in May of a national policy aimed at increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standards would cover model years 2012 through 2016. When the national program takes effect, California has committed to allowing automakers who show compliance with the national program to be compliant with state requirements. (See the May 20 article published by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.)

For more information see the EPA June 30 press release, and the EPA decision.

To read more about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in California, see: