EPA sets fuel efficiency hearing

David Shepardson | Detroit News

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to move quickly to consider a request by California and 13 states to impose a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions by 2016 — a measure that would require automakers to dramatically boost the efficiency of light trucks and passenger cars.

The EPA has set a public hearing on the issue on March 5 and will take public comments through April 6.

The hearing comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s decision last month to order the EPA to reconsider the Bush Administration’s decision to deny California and the other states a waiver under the Clean Air Act to implement new standards.

In a Friday notice about the public hearing, the EPA repudiated its prior denial saying it “significantly departed from EPA’s longstanding interpretation of the Clean Air Act’s waiver provisions and from the agency’s history.”

California had been granted more than 50 waivers over the past 30 years and never received a complete denial. California’s waiver would require automakers to boost fuel economy to a fleetwide 35.7 miles per gallon by 2016 and 42.5 mpg by 2020.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the agency would conduct an “impartial review” of California’s request.`

“It is imperative that we get this decision right, and base it on the best available science and a thorough understanding of the law,” Jackson said.

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said that if the states get EPA approval, they would immediately put their requirements into effect with no changes in the ramp up until 2016.

The standards — drafted in 2004 — were supposed to begin with the 2009 model year.

“Nothing I saw changed the views that I had before is that there’s a lot of great technology that we need to bring on,” Nichols said in an interview this week after touring the Washington Auto Show.

The EPA said the agency is specifically seeking comment on automaker lead time.

California has said its requirements would reduce auto sales by 4.7 percent by 2020 because complying with the new standards would increase the average cost of vehicles. “Our standards are not the problem. Our standards are part of the solution if we do it right,” Nichols said.

Sue Cischke, Ford Motor Co.’ group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety, said the automaker would face significant hurdles in complying.

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Vermont: Sanders to lead talks on global warming


Rutland Herald.com

U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., will host a pair of town meetings Sunday in Woodstock and Brattleboro with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben to discuss the creation of a sustainable economy while reversing global warming.

“Global warming is a planetary crisis that needs to be addressed, but as we do there are economic opportunities available,” Sanders said Friday, noting a reduction in the use of oil and coal power will lead to a rise in solar, wind and geothermal sources.

McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and founder of environmental action group Step it Up 2007.

Sanders and McKibben will be at the Town Hall Theatre in Woodstock. Brunch will be served at 10 a.m. and the meeting will begin at 10:30 a.m. At 2 p.m., Sanders and McKibben will be at the Brattleboro Union High School auditorium.

Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, call Sanders’ office at (800) 339-9834.

Other US crises shouldn’t derail action on global warming, Gore tells Congress



Former vice president Al Gore presented lawmakers yesterday with a new inconvenient truth: Action on global warming cannot wait until the economy recovers.

In three hours of testimony that at times looked like a sequel to the Oscar-winning documentary based on his book “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore pressed Congress to pass President Obama’s economic stimulus plan as a first step to bringing greenhouse gases under control.

He also pushed for decisive action on a bill this year to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases, saying the legislation is needed for the United States to take a leading role in negotiations on a new international climate treaty.

To underscore his point, Gore flipped through more than four dozen slides showing melting ice caps, Western wildfires, deforestation, and oxygen-depleted seas.

Six months ago, Gore called for the country to produce all of its electricity from carbon-free sources within the next 10 years. Since then, the recession has deepened and the government – which is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to save financial institutions and keep automakers from bankruptcy.

Gore told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recession and wars should not delay climate change legislation.

Gore Urges Action on Economy, Global Warming

DINA CAPPIELLO | Associated Press

Former Vice President Al Gore urged lawmakers Wednesday not to let the economic crisis get in the way of addressing global warming.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said Congress should pass President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package as a first step to bringing greenhouse gases under control.

But Gore also pressed for “decisive action” on a bill to cap heat-trapping gases, saying that it is needed for the U.S. to take a leading role in negotiations on a new international climate treaty later this year.

The Bush administration pulled out of the last treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, because of the lack of participation by developing countries. Negotiations on a new agreement are scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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California: Oropeza proposes regulating a greenhouse gas


John Canalis | Press-Telegraph

Following President Barack Obama’s directive to allow states to regulate harmful emissions, state Sen. Jenny Oropeza said Tuesday that she has introduced legislation that would reduce the use of a greenhouse gas commonly used in manufacturing.

Senate Bill 104 would allow the California Air Resources Board to regulate nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3. The bill is in the state Senate’s Rules Committee awaiting policy committee assignment.

“There is no question climate change is having a devastating effect on the earth’s environment,” Oropeza said. “Even if by some miracle we could stop the release of harmful emissions, it would take years before we could halt the damage that has been done.”

NF3 previously was thought to be harmless until studies at UC Irvine and UC San Diego suggested otherwise.

UCI scientists concluded NF3 has a global-warming potential 17,000 times greater than carbon dioxide and can remain in the atmosphere for centuries.

UCSD found that a larger amount of NF3 has been released into the air than previously believed and concluded that the quantity of the gas in the atmosphere is growing.

“The harmful effects of NF3 are only now being fully understood, as it was not widely used before the 1990 s,” Oropeza said. “California must get ahead of this threat and once again lead the way to protect our environment.”

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California: GOP pushing to weaken emissions standards

Michael Gardner | The San Diego Union-Tribune

While praising President Barack Obama’s moves to allow California to impose tighter controls on tailpipe emissions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now finds himself under pressure from fellow Republicans demanding that he weaken the state’s broader greenhouse-gas laws as part of any deal to solve the budget crisis.

The possibility of compromising the state’s landmark standards to curb global warming has environmentalists fuming. They also worry that Democrats will be forced to trade environmental safeguards for GOP concessions on raising revenue.

“This is fiscal blackmail,” said Bill Magavern, state director of the Sierra Club. “They know they could never achieve these weakenings of environmental protections through the normal process.”

Republicans, however, say providing industry relief from potentially new costs to limit emissions will stimulate growth, provide jobs and help refill empty state coffers.

Schwarzenegger yesterday declined to commit to defending the state’s emission laws, suggesting that publicly drawing lines outside secret budget talks could be counterproductive.

“I don’t want to get into any of the details of our budget discussions, because it could blow up everything,” he said.

A key lawyer in state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office has circulated a memo warning that legislation drafted by Republicans as part of budget talks could “radically weaken” the state’s ability to enforce emission reductions and “violate the Clean Air Act.”

“These proposals would neither help the state’s fiscal crisis, nor provide any stimulative effect on the economy,” wrote Marc Le Forestier, supervising deputy attorney general who tracks legislation for Brown, a Democrat.

The memo surfaced just as Schwarzenegger and other environmental leaders were celebrating Obama’s directive to reopen California’s application for permission to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Bush administration refused to grant the waiver in December 2007.

“California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership . . . But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way,” Obama said.

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U.K.: Obama aims for oil independence


US President Barack Obama has called for US energy independence, saying reliance on foreign oil and global warming posed threats to the country.

Outlining his energy priorities, he said the country would not be held “hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes, and a warming planet”.

He called for greater fuel efficiency and an “energy economy” aimed at creating millions of jobs.

He also ordered a review of whether states can set car emission standards.

This challenges a Bush administration decision which favoured a national standard for vehicle pollution.

At his first White House news conference since becoming president, Mr Obama said he would reverse America’s dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs, but warned there was no “quick fix”.

A customer at a petrol pump

Mr Obama wants fuel efficiency to improve

“We will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence, and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work.”

He added: “Now is the time to meet the challenge of this crossroads of history, by choosing a future safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable.”

Mr Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its refusal of a waiver which had previously allowed California to set its own – stricter – vehicle emission and fuel efficiency standards.

He said California had taken bold moves in implementing the standards.

Mr Obama said: “The days of Washington dragging its heels are over.

“My administration will not deny facts. We will be guided by them.”

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