California, U.S. EPA and U.S. DOT agreement shows Clean Air Act works

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have reached an agreement with California to coordinate the release of their respective proposals for vehicle carbon pollution and fuel economy standards for model years 2017 to 2025 cars and light trucks, according to joint statement released today by the agencies.

The new agreement demonstrates how the Clean Air Act is an effective tool to cut carbon pollution and oil dependency, and recognizes the importance of California as a full partner at the national level in developing new motor vehicle pollution standards. However, we believe it is critical for California to reserve its historic right under the Clean Air Act to develop its own standards which is the best way to ensure the U.S. EPA and DOT develop a meaningful proposal.

In today’s agreement, California will delay its proposal to September 1st, and EPA and NHSTA have agreed to advance its proposal to the same date. Previously the U.S. EPA and DOT planned to release a formal proposal by September 30th, 2011. California’s proposal had been on a separate, independent schedule to be released in March.

Today’s announcement shows that the critics who say EPA setting GHG pollution standards will lead to doom-and-gloom are wrong. By agreeing to coordinate on timing, the U.S. EPA and California are set to repeat the success of the first round of that national clean car deal that was brokered by the Administration and supported by states, automakers, labor, and environmentalist leaders.

According to the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOT, the current national program for model years 2012 to 2016 will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 960 million metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. Blocking EPA’s authority to set future standards will mean higher fuel bills for drivers, greater oil dependency, and more air pollution.

The agreement is important recognition that California is a full partner in developing the next generation of national car standards and that the agencies will all be talking off the same technical page when issuing their proposals. Last September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Transportation and the California Air Resources Board released a joint technical assessment that concluded that it was technically feasible to strengthen standards to up to the equivalent of 62 mpg by model year 2025.

If the next generation standards are going to take full advantage of the opportunities to cut drivers fuel bills, reduce our oil dependency and cut air pollution, it is critical for California to reserve its historic right under to the Clean Air Act to develop its own standards. California has historically led the nation in setting the toughest pollution standards that are later adopted nationally, and its Clean Air Act role as “pioneer” in motor vehicle control is well recognized.

Today’s agreement is an important step on the road to stronger vehicle standards. Ensuring California is a full partner in this process and retains its historic leadership role can be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and economy.