States May Gain Power Over Emissions Standards

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON – Plunging into energy policy, President Barack Obama is poised to give states a freer hand in curbing emissions from cars, and to get his government moving on fuel-efficiency standards that could remake the auto industry.

Obama will announce his plans Monday at the White House, according to officials familiar with the details who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the president.

The attention to energy comes as Obama heads into his first full week as president, with an agenda dominated by economic woes and a push to get a huge stimulus plan through Congress.

In one key move, Obama is aiming toward letting California and other states set their own tailpipe emission standards, a tool for reducing the gases that contribute to global warming.

And in the other, Obama will order the Transportation Department to enact short-term rules on how automakers can improve fuel efficiency of their new models based on a 2007 law.

On car emissions, California needed a waiver from the Clean Air Act to pursue its own course; the Bush administration's Environmental Protection Agency denied that permission, which affected at least 13 other states that have followed California's lead.

Obama will direct EPA regulators to re-examine California's case. The formal process will take time but is expected to end up in the states' favor. The Bush administration had rejected the request on grounds that a national fuel-efficiency strategy would work better.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has lobbied Obama to step in and reverse the decision. As a candidate for president, Obama pledged to overturn the EPA's denial.

"By beginning this process and directing EPA to review the Bush administration's lack of action, President Obama is turning the federal government into a force for positive change instead of a roadblock," said the Sierra Club's executive director, Carl Pope.

Obama is also expected to order new guidelines on fuel economy. The law requires that by 2020, new cars and trucks meet a standard of 35 miles per gallon, a 40 percent increase over the status quo. But the Bush administration did not set regulations in support of that law.

The president on Monday is also expected to tout proposals that he says would boost clean energy supplies while also producing badly needed jobs in so-called "green" industries.


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