California asks EPA to review car emissions waiver

LOS ANGELES Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:52pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California asked the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to reconsider the state's request, denied by the previous administration, to impose its own tough limits on climate warming emissions from cars.

The letter from California's top air quality regulator, Mary Nichols, to designated EPA chief Lisa Jackson, came on the first full day of work for the Obama administration.

If the waiver is granted, it would open the door for California and 13 other states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles by 30 percent by 2016, the state said.

EPA officials were not immediately available for comment.

Former President George W. Bush's administration often elicited criticism from environmentalists, who said it favored industry and politics over environmental science.

Stephen Johnson, Bush's EPA administrator, came under fire after he denied California's request for federal permission to impose new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from cars. California and more than 12 other states sued the EPA over the decision.

Environmentalists have praised Obama's pledge to combat global warming, including his vow to make automakers meet tough fuel standards.

"We feel strongly that under its new leadership, EPA will recognize that the decision made by the former administrator to deny California the waiver to enforce our clean car law was flawed, factually and legally, in fundamental ways," California Air Resources Board Chairman Nichols said.

In a letter to Obama, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the president to "direct the U.S. EPA to act promptly and favorably on California's reconsideration request, so that we may continue the critical work of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global climate change."

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Todd Eastham)

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