EPA Takes Wrong Step in Reducing Emissions
It's interesting to look back at the government's evolving concern for air pollution, but there are areas of regulation that need improvement.
The federal government has had a legislative role in air pollution since 1955. There has been a lot more legislation since then to improve the government's efforts, but unfortunately, some of that legislation has fostered areas of regulation that need improvement. The Automotive Service Association strongly disagrees with the direction some of the legislation has taken.
To understand how we've come to where we are today, one needs to recap the history of the government's attempts to solve the problem of air pollution.
The first federal air pollution legislation was enacted (in 1955) to fund research to determine the sources and severity of air toxics.
Eight years later, in 1963, a national program to address environmental problems related to air pollution was developed to research ways to minimize it.
In 1967, research was increased.
Just three years later, the Clean Air Act of 1970 was implemented, authorizing more specific techniques to improve air quality and laying the foundation for the Clean Air Act of today. Created by an act of Congress, the Clean Air Act of 1970 established state requirements to improve the national air quality standard, founded the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, increased enforcement authority and set up limits to control motor vehicle emissions.
In 1971, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to enforce certain aspects of the Clean Air Act.
Important amendments were added to the act in 1977. And in 1990, the government amended the Clean Air Act to regulate 189 air toxics and to expand and modify enforcement authority and regulations aimed at acquiring national standards of air quality.
Since 1955, the Clean Air Act has become more specific once the scope and sources of threats to the environment and health were discovered. Since 1999, greenhouse gas emissions have been a major concern for environmental, consumer and health organizations, yet current pressure from the White House has halted the EPA's progress.
In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases qualify as "air pollutants" as defined by the Clean Air Act and that the EPA "has statutory authority to regulate emission of such gases from new motor vehicles." In response to this ruling, an EPA task force researched and discovered that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful to human health and a factor in global warming. However, action was halted in late 2007 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and White House officials have ordered the EPA to postpone taking any further steps until the George W. Bush administration is out of the White House. This would disregard the U.S. Supreme Court's decision and counsel of other senior federal officials.
The EPA blames this on the current economic situation of the United States, stating that it would be costly to implement regulation of greenhouse gases, though some economic benefits would be gained if implementation occurs. Further, the EPA is lawfully bound to protect Americans from health and environmental threats, but is being denied its right to perform this duty.
Smog, a mixture of pollutants emitted by vehicles, continues to be a major air quality issue and many believe this has been worsened by the EPA backing down from the greenhouse gas emissions issue. Smog is detrimental to both health and public welfare and should be closely monitored and controlled by the EPA.
Another step in the wrong direction is the EPA's regression with emissions testing. Robert L. Redding, Jr., ASA's Washington, D.C., representative, said in a response to a New York Times Op-ed piece: "If air pollutants are the target then the U.S. EPA and many states need to get back to assuring that emissions-testing programs cover the nation, not just some states and non-attainment areas. The current leadership of [the] EPA has not encouraged these programs.
"Frankly, we have seen testing programs contract rather than expand during the last eight years. Job commuters, shoppers and families [who are] vacationing drive into non-attainment areas every day without any semblance of vehicle pollution responsibility. Emissions testing should apply to all vehicles on America's highways - whether it is a state or national program and whether drivers live in an urban, rural or suburban community."
A national turnaround is the only way the negative effect of vehicle emissions will decrease, and thus the EPA, our national air quality regulator, needs to intervene.
With a lack of federal initiative to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, states have taken action to bring cleaner vehicles to consumers. Through its Clean Cars Campaign, California has been the leader in implementing emissions standards to reduce global warming pollution. Forty percent of global warming emissions is caused by passenger vehicles and thus needs to be reduced. These pollutants are believed to trigger increased air pollution, wildfire, floods, droughts and temperature swings.
The emissions standards covered in California Assembly Bill 1493 will commence with 2009 models of noncommercial passenger vehicles and includes all air toxics as defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). According to a July 2008 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, eight out of 10 Californians support the Clean Cars Law.
Headed by California's leading health, environmental and public interest groups, the Clean Cars Campaign has faced lawsuits from groups such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM). The AAM lawsuit has not yet been resolved. However, legal challenges have not prevented other states from following California's initiative. In fact, California has significantly impacted other states and all of Canada to either adopt its policy or to consider similar proposals. These states are Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, North Carolina and Florida.
ASA supports the Clean Cars Campaign goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-efficient manner, but opposes its super warranty provisions. ASA is concerned with stopping super warranty initiatives and has been active in other states where Clean Car regulations have been considered.
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