Fitz-Gerald Urges Tough Vehicle GHG Standards

Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Coal Creek Canyon) has weighed in on California’s side in the state’s dispute with the Environmental Protection Agency over the regulation of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles.

In 2002, California passed a law requiring auto makers to cut greenhouse gases from motor vehicles and light trucks — 25 percent and 18 percent, respectively — by 2009.California has long been an environmental leader in vehicle air quality, because the federal Clean Air Act allows the state to impose stricter vehicle standards than the federal ones. Other states can then choose to follow the California standards, or the federal ones.

The spanner in the works is that California must get a waiver from EPA for its tougher standards, a waiver which EPA has so far declined to give.

Fitzgerald has submitted written testimony to EPA supporting California’s tougher stand on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, saying that protecting California’s right to do so also protects Colorado’s rights:

“We feel that this issue of federalism and states rights is of enormous importance,” Fitz-Gerald wrote. “While we currently have no ‘Clean Cars’ program enacted, we urge the EPA to protect Colorado’s right to set strong air quality standards and our ability to cut global warming pollution from motor vehicles … The science is clear and convincing that we must address global warming. Our great state of Colorado, our country, and our nation will face dramatic consequences if we do not take decisive action at all levels of government to cut global warming pollution.”

Fitz-Gerald also took the opportunity to blast the Bush administration:

“The Bush Administration’s failure to grant California’s waiver 18 months after it was requested is more than just a bureaucratic power play-it marks a clear decision to cater to powerful special interests over the future of America’s quality of life and public health.  Global warming demands immediate action at the local, state and federal levels.  The Bush Administration should grant California’s waiver request and affirm the power of Colorado and other states the power to cut global warming pollution from motor vehicles.”

According to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the transportation sector accounts for 28 percent of the 7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted annually in the U.S. Pew has recommended an increase in fuel economy of 25 to 33 percent for cars and trucks over the next ten to 15 years.

Fitz-Gerald wrote:

“California’s standards are feasible.  They can be met with technology already in the market and will save vehicle owners in lower maintenance and operating costs over the lifetimes of the vehicle.  The standards give automakers flexibility to apply any technology they choose to reduce global warming emissions, including production of vehicles that use lower carbon fuels.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says his state will sue if EPA doesn’t act by October 25. The agency has until recently declined to regulate greenhouse warming, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that it was clearly required by federal clean air legislation.

Fitz-Gerald submitted her testimony on Tuesday in writing to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson