(CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday reversed its denial of a waiver request made during the Bush administration, allowing California to enforce stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards for new vehicles.
After Barack Obama took office in January, he directed the EPA to assess whether the Bush-era denial was appropriate in light of the Clean Air Act, which lets California enact stricter air pollution standards than those established by the federal government.
In its March 2008 denial, the EPA said California lacked an urgent need for its greenhouse standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions.”
But upon reconsidering, the agency determined that the Clean Air Act gives it the authority to let California enforce its own emissions standards, geared at tackling the state’s serious pollution problems. The decision was based on extensive scientific and technical evidence, the EPA said.
In its reversal, the EPA concluded that California does, in fact, have an urgent need for its motor vehicle emissions program, and that the program meets legal requirements for public health and available technology.
“The EPA’s reversal tears down the last remaining barrier preventing California from enforcing its laws curbing greenhouse gases,” California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement. “Today’s decision stands in sharp contrast to the Bush EPA’s politically driven denial two years ago.”
Last month, Obama announced the first national policy aimed at increasing fuel economy and reducing new-vehicle pollution. Automakers that comply with the national program will also pass state requirements.
The new standards will cover vehicle model years 2012 to 2016.