EPA lets states set emissions limits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted California and 13 other states, including Washington, authority Tuesday to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from new cars and light trucks.

The ruling reverses denials of stronger state standards by the Bush administration in 2007 and 2008.

The states and several national environmental groups have been fighting for the waiver to regulate tailpipe emissions under the federal Clean Air Act for more than two years. California originally was denied a waiver in 2005.

“We’re happy; this is what we’ve been looking for,” Washington Department of Ecology spokesman Seth Preston said.

Environmentalists said the action by the Obama administration is another indication that the federal government finally is a willing partner with states serious about combating climate change.

“This decision means we will finally get cleaner cars on the road,” said KC Golden, policy director for Climate Solutions, an agency aimed at fighting global warming.

Studies show that about 50 percent of the greenhouse gases generated in Washington come from vehicle exhaust. A 2008 Ecology report showed the new emission limits would curb statewide greenhouse gases from new cars and light trucks by 5.5 million metric tons by 2020.

The EPA waiver approval comes on the heels of a May 19 agreement involving the federal government, California and the auto industry that the states’ clean car standards would be applied nationwide for model years 2012 through 2016.

The states can enforce their tougher standards until 2012, but it’s not clear which model year will be the first to comply, Preston said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444