The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a proposal last Friday requesting that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses be declared a public health danger - starting down the path toward inevitable national emissions laws.
The EPA gained the right to regulate emissions two years ago, but largely did nothing under the former administration. In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA that emissions from vehicles could be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and went so far as to say that if the EPA declined to regulate emissions, the agency must provide scientific reasoning for failing to do so.
While the Bush administration only published a proposal inviting public discussions after the ruling, the Obama administration is wasting no time in getting ball rolling. President Obama has made it abundantly clear, both during his campaign and in his first few months in office, that "green" is in.
Automakers - and particularly U.S. automakers - have much to fear from the impending emissions laws. They have fought against emissions standards for years, holding their own for quite some time. Now that GM and Chrysler are essentially at the federal government's mercy, however, there is little they can do in the way of blocking emissions legislation.
About a dozen states, led by California, have been seeking to set their own limits on carbon dioxide limits, with California submitting its first petition in 1999. In 2007 the Bush administration declined to give the states that power, but now that a new, more progressive administration is in office, the states have applied again. Only time will tell if the Obama administration will allow the states to have their own limits, or if it will favor a national standard instead, but one thing is clear: stricter standards are on the horizon.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President William Kovacs said allowing California to institute its own limits would damage automakers. "As Congress tries to bail out the auto industry, California wants to punch more holes in the bottom of the boat," he said, citing the cost the laws will impose on the automakers.
The EPA will release its proposal by Earth Day, and will hold at least two public hearings before it is finalized.
Source: The Detroit News