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Obama administration issues vehicle fuel efficiency, emissions regulations

[JURIST] The Obama administration issued new regulations Thursday tightening fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for new cars starting in 2012. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) [official websites] issued [press release] a joint rule called the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) [text, PDF], which will require new cars to meet tougher standards by 2016. The CAFE standards will require [fact sheet, PDF] new automobiles to meet an estimated combined average mile per gallon (mpg) of 34.1 mpg and an estimated combined average emissions level of 250 grams of CO2 per mile by 2016. The standards will apply to cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles. The DOT and EPA estimate that over the lives of the 2016 model automobiles, the CAFE standards will save the average customer $3,000, will save the nation about 1.8 billion barrels of oil, and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about a billion tons. The DOT and EPA said the new standards are consistent with President Barack Obama's National Fuel Efficiency Policy [JURIST report] announced last may, "responding to the country's critical need to address global climate change and to reduce oil consumption."

In December, the EPA announced a finding that greenhouse gases threaten [JURIST report] public health and the environment. Those findings enabled the EPA to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act [text, PDF], which the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 gives the EPA authority [JURIST report] to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases by automobiles. In June, the EPA granted permission to California to enforce its own greenhouse gas emissions standards. California had been seeking permission [EPA materials] from the EPA to set its own vehicle emission and greenhouse gas standards since 2005. The request was initially denied [letter, PDF] in December 2007, on the grounds that the regulations were aimed at addressing global climate change and that California was limited to "address[ing] pollution problems that are local or regional." The EPA reconsidered [JURIST report] California's request last year after being directed [memorandum; JURIST report] by Obama to do so.

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