By Blocking Clean Car Peace Treaty, H.R. 1 is Bad for Consumers, Oil Dependency and Automakers

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1 on a vote of 235 to 189 with only three Republicans joining all the Democrats in voting no. By blocking what we call the 2009 Clean Car Peace Treaty, H.R. 1 would also raise consumer fuel bills, worsen our oil dependency, and throw automaker production plans into chaos.

H.R. 1 is a “continuing resolution” to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year and includes an amendment (Poe, R-TX) that would bar the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from using any funds to implement, administer, or enforce any statutory or regulatory requirement pertaining to emissions of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases. As my colleague Dan Lashof points out, H.R. 1 is really “an an all out assault on government, and the public health safeguards most Americans want government to enforce EPA, at the behest of big polluters and anti-science ideologues.”

One of the results of defunding EPA would be to possibly block the implementation of the 2009 Clean Car Peace Treaty, also known as phase 1 of the National Program that sets new pollution and efficiency standards for new model year 2012-16 cars and light trucks. The agreement was brokered by the President and supported by automakers, federal regulators, states, environmental leaders, and the UAW. It sets the first-ever EPA carbon pollution standards for new cars and raises fuel economy standards to 34.1 mpg by model year 2016. It provides California and the clean car states the pollution reduction they sought, while giving automakers certainty they need to plan their production.

The bill would possibly block implementation of the Clean Car Peace Treaty because it is not yet clear if California has a waiver from the EPA to allow it to implement a 2009 amendment to its program that allows automakers to use compliance with EPA standards to be used for demonstration of compliance with its program. This effectively allows automakers to design and build their fleets to meet a single national fleet standard. But without the waiver, California and 13 others states (plus D.C.) that have adopted California’s standards would have no choice but to enforce their separate programs. Given adequate lead time, this would not be a problem but the challenge is that automakers need at least two years lead time to plan their production. Model year 2012 is less than a year away.

Blocking the national program also threatens to undermine the consumer, oil savings, and pollution benefits of the National Program. And as I discussed in an earlier blog, due to differences in their underlying authorities, the EPA standards provides greater benefits than the companion fuel economy standard program that would be allowed to go forward under H.R. 1.

Blocking the Clean Car Peace Treaty throws years of progress on common-sense pollution and fuel economy standards into reverse.  H.R. 1 is a bad deal for consumers, our oil dependency, and the auto industry.

[2/22/11 Corrections: First, my original blog posted 2/20/11 contained a typo which incorrectly said the stated savings for the second phase of the National Program was for "2017-2025" when in actuality the savings numbers are for just one model year, 2025. The total program savings for model years 2017-2025 would be much higher, but was not estimated in the September 2010 joint agency Technical Assessment Report. The above blog reflects this correction.

Second, my original  blog stated that "California does net yet have a waiver". The actual situation is more complicated since California may not need a waiver to implement its 2009 amendments. At minimum, H.R. 1 creates significant uncertainty whether California can implement its 2009 amendments and therefore the National Program.  The above blog has been modified to reflect the uncertainty.

Third, upon a closer read of the final H.R. 1 language, it appears the intent is to allow EPA to go forth with the second round of the National Program. The above blog has been modified to reflect the final bill language.]