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Obama embraces states' rights on auto emissions

On Monday, President Barack Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider a waiver request by California and 13 other states to set standards on auto emissions – including those of greenhouse gases – that are tougher than federal standards.

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Monday's directive will most likely mean that California will be allowed to adopt its law, and those 13 other states – Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – will adopt the California greenhouse standard as their own.

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In his statement before the signing of Monday's directive, which was accompanied by a directive calling for the implementation of less stringent federal fuel economy standards enacted by President Bush, Obama accused the previous administration of "dragging its heels" on efforts to halt climate change:

Third, the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to forge 21st century standards, and over a dozen states have followed its lead. But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way. This refusal to lead risks the creation of a confusing and patchwork set of standards that hurts the environment and the auto industry.

It seems everyone is trying to play the "confusing patchwork" card. A Friday press release from the National Automobile Dealers Association announced the release of a report titled "Patchwork Proven: Why A Single National Fuel Economy Standard Is Better for America Than A Patchwork of State Regulations." The report argues that granting California's waiver would amount to regulating fuel-economy twice under two different systems, a bad move given the precariousness of the US auto industry.

Roland Hwang, the vehicles policy director for the National Resource Defense Council, offers a straightforward solution to the auto industry's concerns: just follow California's more stringent standards nationwide.

A 2004 report by California's Air Resources Board [PDF] noted that the state's regulations would increase the price of the average new car in 2016 by as much as $1,064.

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