Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Car industry makes its move! -- Sen. Levin floats energy language to kneecap EPA, California and other states

For the past week, many reporters have asked me, “what the heck is going on with all these efforts” (the White House, the car companies, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.) with regard to the energy bill and possible “coordination” of the efforts of EPA and DOT

Well now the truth (at least part of it) can be told.

All these letters apparently were an attempt to soften up the Senate leadership – the airstrikes before the ground invasion. But now the ground attack is on.

Language undoubtedly drafted by car company lobbyists is now floating around the US Senate. (See below.) It reportedly is being shopped not just by car companies, but by senators including Michigan’s Carl Levin. (See story below.) We understand that the staff of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is making similar noises.

The language would require that any move made by the US EPA that could “affect the fuel economy of new motor vehicle engines or new motor vehicle engines” would have to be “consistent” with fuel economy requirements set by the federal Department of Transportation.

In other words, this is a bid to kneecap EPA and states led by California that seek to enforce tougher greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. EPA would become subordinate to the Transportation Department. And states like California would be left out in the cold.

The timing is most ironic, given the federal court decision today in California which shot down the very arguments being made by the car companies and their proponents in the Senate.

Look for California and other states to start pushing back against this ground attack.

On page 21, insert after line 4, at the end of section 102 (of the soon to be filed Reid substitute):
"(d) APPLICATION WITH CLEAN AIR ACT. – Chapter 329 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 32919 the following:
"Section 32920. Consistent Standards.
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law or regulation, should the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency promulgate carbon dioxide emissions regulations under section 202 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7521) that affect the fuel economy of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, the Administrator shall adopt regulations that are fully consistent with chapter 329 of this title and any standards or regulations promulgated or enforced thereunder.".
"(e) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION – Nothing in the amendments made by this title to chapter 329 of title 49 shall be construed to conflict with the authority provided by section 209 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7543)."

Levin Presses CAFE Authority in Energy Debate By: Geof KossCongressNow StaffWednesday, December 12, 2007 2:23 PM Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is continuing to press for the insertion of language in the Senate energy bill that would clarify the role of two key federal agencies in setting corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards."I'm trying to clarify it to make sure there's no conflict," Levin told reporters this afternoon, of the role of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA.The Senate is poised to pass a fleetwide CAFE increase of 35 miles per gallon - the first such increase in 30 years - in the Senate energy bill.However, lawmakers whose home states are heavy in automobile manufacturing, including Levin and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), as well as the White House, have raised concerns that future EPA rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles could cause a conflict with NHTSA, which has historically overseen the CAFE program."We've got to try to make it clear that what the EPA is authorized to do is consistent with what everyone agrees should be the number," Levin said of the 35 mpg mandate.The issue emerged after the Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that EPA has authority under the federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide.That landmark ruling has been backed by similar rulings in other federal courts. For instance, a federal judge in California today upheld that state's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act in a lawsuit brought by automakers.The rulings have sparked concerns by the auto industry that they will face conflicting federal CAFE rules as EPA moves to control greenhouse gas emissions from auto tailpipes.Levin declined to say whether he would withhold support for the larger energy bill over the matter. "For me, it's an important issue," he said.The White House also raised the issue last week in a Statement of Administration Policy on the energy bill (H.R. 6)."Unfortunately, H.R. 6 leaves ambiguous the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating vehicle fuel economy, and as a result would likely create substantial regulatory uncertainty, confusion, and duplication of efforts," the statement reads.

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