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EPA Rolls Over For Auto Industry

WASHINGTON (CN) - In a sop to the U.S. auto industry, the Bush administration on Wednesday denied California and 16 other states an EPA waiver allowing them to set their own standards for carbon dioxide emissions. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said those rules - granted to California andother states after long court battles - were superseded by the energy bill President Bush signed into law Wednesday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other governors vowed to continue the legal fight.

Federal courts in California and Vermont this year upheld the standards proposed by those states, and by New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington. The governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah said they would seek waivers for their states too. Had the EPA granted the waiver, in line with the federal courts rulings, it would have covered half the vehicles sold in the United States.

The EPA action was widely interpreted as a political payoff for the auto industry's acquiescence to the recent energy bill, which will increase mileage standards.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown called the EPA action "absurd."

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called it "disgraceful."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called it a "mockery of law".

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said his committed would investigate how the EPA made the decision and would seek to overturn the decision.

In Europe on Wednesday, EU officials ordered European automakers to reduce tailpipe emissions by 25 percent or face fines that could total billions of euros. European automakers, including Volkswagen and Renault, protested, saying compliance would be difficult and would hurt sales. The proposal must be approved by the European Parliament and its 27 member nations, which presumably could take years.

The proposed EU standard would reduce tailpipe emissions from 160 grams per kilometer to 120 g/km by 2012.

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