In the wake of the federal government’s lax gas mileage standards, the governments of seventeen states from all over the country – including California, New York, and New Mexico and Oregon – banded together to petition for state-determined standards for the auto industry. In a decision announced yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency denied the states their rights to enforce stricter standards.
An EPA spokesman said the reason for the denial was based on the Bush Administration’s desire to have one cohesive standard for the entire country, rather than a “patchwork” of state laws. Not surprisingly, many believe the decision was instead the result of effective auto industry lobbying. In fact, many insiders characterized the EPA’s decision as a reward to the auto industry for supporting the Bush’s national Energy Bill, which was signed yesterday as well.
The proposed measure – the Clea Air Act – would have required cars to meet a gas efficiency of 35-miles to the gallon within cooperating states. Upon hearing the news of the waver, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to appeal the decision in federal court.
“It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation.” He said. Schwarzenegger pioneered the act, which was subsequently adopted by other state governments. All told, the collective auto buying power of the CAA-compliant states would have totaled half of the nation’s car consumers.
California’s state legislature was particularly baffled by the EPA’s decision as they have always been given special dispensation to set their own pollution and transportation legislation, due to their unique topographical makeup. This denial is the first of its kind in the country’s history. California’s Attorney General, Edmund Brown Jr. referred to the decision “absurd,” while Connecticut’s AG, Richard Blumenthal called it “a mockery of law and sound public policy.”
New York will join California in its appeal in federal court and the EPA’s decision making process will be scrutinized by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
While discouraging news, the widespread condemnation of this decision is certainly grounds to be hopeful for a successful appeal.