By Caroline Holland
Senate Committee Pushes for EPA Decision
The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill July 31 that will force a decision from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the California waiver request to regulate greenhouse gases. U.S. Senate Bill 1785 would require the EPA to act on the waiver and allow California to implement a 2004 state regulation designed to reduce emissions from automobiles.
The Clean Air Act dictates that when California air quality rulemakings are deemed more rigid than federal standards, the state must obtain a waiver allowing for such regulation. The California Air Resources Board submitted its formal waiver request in December 2005. Specifically, the waiver request involved a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in 2016. Such a reduction would involve automakers improving vehicle mileage to approximately 43 miles per gallon by 2016.
To date, no formal EPA decision has been made with regard to the waiver. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the committee, hopes that the committee's bill approval will help to move the process forward.
Democrats Unite on Energy Legislation
Democrats in the House withdrew competing legislation Aug. 1 involving increasing fuel efficiency standards. The purpose of these actions was to unite Democrats prior to floor debate on energy legislation. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaker of the House; praised Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee; and Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., for their decisions to drop their amendments aimed at increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. Their decision was made based on an Aug. 1 deadline for filing amendments to the energy package. Markey said he is confident that CAFÉ standards will be increased in conference because of sufficient support in both the House and the Senate.
Along with the decision to withdraw competing legislation, House Democrats also united to mitigate an amendment mandating renewable energy production. The amendment by Reps. Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Todd Platts, R-Pa.; and Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas; would require utility companies to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. This is a diluted amendment from the originally proposed Udall-Platt proposal that would require a 20 percent mandate by 2020.
National Insurance Act Introduced in the House of Representatives
House Bill 3200, The National Insurance Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives July 26 by Reps. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., and Ed Royce, R-Calif. The bill corresponds with companion legislation, Senate Bill 40, which was introduced May 24 by Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and John Sununu, R-N.H.
The proposed bill would establish an optional federal charter to be used by insurers operating under the jurisdiction of multiple states. It calls for the creation of an Office of National Insurance, which would act under an extensive set of regulatory and supervisory powers. These powers would be modeled after those exercised by federal banking agencies. Additionally, there would be a Division of Consumer Protection as well as a Fraud Division within the national office.
The text of U.S. Senate Bill 1785, H.R.3200, and S.40 is available on the Automotive Service Association's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com.
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