[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] issued a Presidential Memorandum [text] to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] Monday, directing the agency to allow California and several other states to impose state vehicle emissions standards that are more stringent than the federal vehicle emissions standards. The memorandum reverses a policy set by the administration of former US President George W. Bush, which denied a 2007 waiver applied for by California [JURIST report] seeking the authority to regulate vehicle emissions independent of the EPA. In remarks delivered prior to the signing of the memo, Obama said [text]:
[T]he 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.Obama issued an additional Presidential Memorandum [text] on Monday directing the US Department of Transportation (DOT) [official website] to establish higher fuel efficiency standards for US automakers, starting in the 2011 model year.
The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts, we will be guided by them. We cannot afford to pass the buck or push the burden onto the states. And that's why I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the denial of the California waiver request and determine the best way forward. This will help us create incentives to develop new energy that will make us less dependent on oil that endangers our security, our economy, and our planet.
In July 2008, California Attorney General Jerry Brown [official website] formally notified [letter, PDF; JURIST report] the EPA that the state would file a lawsuit against the agency if it refused to issue rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles as well as industrial and agricultural machinery. In January 2008, California filed suit [JURIST report] to appeal the EPA's 2007 denial of a request for the waiver that would have allowed California and 16 other states to impose stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light trucks. In May 2008, a report by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that the Bush White House had influenced that decision and the administration later refused to turn over requested documents [JURIST reports] concerning the decision to the committee, citing executive privilege.