Friday, January 27, 2012

California Passes New Auto Emission Rules

The California Air Resources Board has unanimously approved a package of new emissions rules for cars and light trucks through 2025.

“The California Advanced Clean Car rules will clean our air, fight climate change and provide cars that save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump,” said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. “The Board’s action today will create thousands of new jobs, transforming California into the advanced car capital of the world. California is now in pole position in the race to provide next-generation ultra-clean cars to the global car market.”

The Advanced Clean Cars program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into a single coordinated package of requirements for model years 2017 through 2025. The new rules will clean up gasoline and diesel-powered cars, and deliver increasing numbers of zero-emission technologies, such as full battery electric cars, newly emerging plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell cars, aiming to put 1.4 million electric and hybrid vehicles on state roads by 2025. The package will also ensure adequate fueling infrastructure is available for the increasing numbers of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles planned for deployment in California.

The rules are designed to preserve consumer choice while ensuring the development of a full range of environmentally superior cars from compacts to SUVs and pickups. Many of the technologies that reduce emissions also significantly reduce the operating costs of passenger vehicles on a month-to-month basis for consumers.

"Our research shows a $1,400 to $1,900 car price increase. But over the life of the vehicles, the owners save $6,000 in reduced fuel and maintenance costs," board spokesman David Clegern said.  One of the nation's foremost consumer groups, the Consumers' Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, supported the changes.

Companies including Ford Motor Corp., Chrysler Group LLC, General Motors Co., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and others submitted testimony Thursday supportive of the new standards.

Read more here and here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Judge Strikes Down Air Quality Rules

An Alameda County (California) Superior Court judge recently struck down CEQA guidelines established by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).  The Guidelines sought to "better protect the health and well being of Bay Area residents by addressing new health protective air quality standards, exposure to toxic air contaminants and adverse effects from climate change."  A challenge to the Guidelines was brought by representatives of the building industry, economic development groups and others claiming that the new rules would make the cost of development prohibitively expensive.

As often happens in court decisions, the judge did not rule on the substance of the Guidelines, but rather found that  BAAQMD, itself bound by CEQA, had not undertaken the necessary environmental review of the impacts of the Guidelines.  Solely on this basis, the rules were determined to be improper.

While the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are claiming victory, it is important to remember that his ruling was based on BAAQMD not following the proper procedures; the agency may promulgate the same Guidelines after conducting the necessary environmental review.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

EPA Posts Emissions Data from Industry

Yesterday, the EPA took the bold step of releasing on line comprehensive greenhouse gas data reported directly from facilities in nine industry groups that directly emit large amounts of GHG.  The data was also posted for suppliers of certain fossil fuels. The information can now be found online at the EPA's Reporting Program Data and Data Publication Tool.

In making the announcement, Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, stated:  "Thanks to strong collaboration and feedback from industry, states and other organizations, today we have a transparent, powerful data resource available to the public.  The GHG Reporting Program data provides a critical tool for businesses and other innovators to find cost - and fuel-saving efficiencies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster technologies to protect public health and the environment."

The online tool allows the public to view the data in a variety of ways, including by location, facility type and GHG type emitted.

It will be interesting to see if the transparency of this data will result in a reduction of emissions by these industries.  Indeed, this may prove to give meaning to the phrase: "We are watching you"!

The full press release may be viewed here.