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White House proposes tighter national vehicle emissions standards

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] on Tuesday announced plans [press release] for national fuel efficiency requirements. The policy is aimed at increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce emissions by an approximate 900 million metric tons. The estimated effect of the emissions reduction [press release] is equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal plants. The standards cover model years from 2012 to 2016 and, by 2016, will require an average 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg), surpassing Congress's previous goal of reaching 35 mpg by 2020. Obama addressed consumer fears [press release] of higher automobile costs by stating that, over the life of a vehicle, an average driver would save about $2,800 in fuel costs. Automakers have backed [AP report] Obama's plan since they would not have to face multiple emission requirements in the future and would have more certainty in developing new vehicles. CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers [trade website] Dave McCurdy applauded the president [press release] for bringing automotive manufacturers and environmental groups together and stressed the importance of a national policy in avoiding conflicting standards from different regulatory agencies. Obama addressed the importance of the policy, stating that it:

represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. As a result of this agreement, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century.
Obama said that by using less oil, producing less pollution and creating new jobs, his policy will help the economy run more efficiently.

The new policy addresses the growing concern of inconsistent emission standards developing across the states. California has been attempting to obtain EPA permission [materials] to set its own vehicle emissions standards. The request was initially denied [text] in March 2008 on the grounds that the regulations were aimed at addressing global climate change and that the Clean Air Act "intended to allow California to promulgate state standards" to "address pollution problems that are local or regional." The EPA reconsidered [JURIST report] California's request earlier this year after being directed [memorandum; JURIST report] by Obama to do so. In May 2008, a report by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that the Bush White House had influenced the March 2008 decision and that the administration later refused to turn over requested documents [JURIST reports] concerning the decision to the committee, citing executive privilege. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia seek to adopt standards similar to California's. The Clean Air Act provisions on state standards [text] prohibits states from "adopt[ing] or attempt[ing] to enforce any standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines" without first obtaining a waiver.

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