President Forges Common Ground with Diverse Regional Interests on Climate Security

May 19, 2009


Tony Kreindler, Media Director (202) 445-8108,

 President Forges Common Ground with Diverse Regional Interests on Climate Security

Agreement Slashes Greenhouse Gases, Revs Up Drive to National Legislation

(Washington, D.C. — May 18, 2009).   Today, President Barack Obama forged an historic blueprint to carry out rigorous greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks while giving the nation’s auto makers the certainty of unified regulatory standards.

The agreement achieves a pivotal break through in the debate to secure national climate legislation by addressing major concerns of Midwestern and coastal congressional representatives. The White House estimates the new federal car standards, to be implemented in model years 2012-2016, will reduce greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons, comparable to removing 177 million cars from the road or retiring 194 coal-fired power plants.  

“The White House forged a new agreement by bringing together broad bipartisan geopolitical interests,” said Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund. “By finding common ground with midwestern auto makers, heartland labor interests, coastal Governors, and environmentalists, the White House and Congressional leaders are bringing diverse interests together, adding momentum to the drive for comprehensive climate legislation.”

Major Progress Under Federal Standards. The new federal program would be expressed both in greenhouse gas emission standards administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and fuel economy standards administered by the Department of Transportation.   The White House estimates the standards would achieve a five percent annual improvement in fuel economy from today’s fleet average of 25.1 miles per gallon (mpg) to 35.5 mpg in 2016.   For passenger cars, the standards are increased from 27.5 mpg to 39 mpg, and passenger trucks increase 23.l to 30 mpg.  

California’s Clean Car Standards. The national fleetwide greenhouse gas emission standards in 2016 are comparable to those called for under California’s clean car standards.  Under the agreement, EPA would grant California’s request to enforce its state clean car standards while the U.S. develops harmonized national emission standards and fuel economy standards under federal law.   From model years 2012-2016, California would defer to the comparable federal program.   Significantly, the nation’s auto makers would drop long-standing litigation over the state clean car standards.  

History of the California Clean Car Program. In 2005, California asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grant a preemption waiver under the Clean Air Act to enable California’s enforcement of the nation’s first ever program to reduce global warming pollution from motor vehicles.   Under federal law, EPA shall grant California’s request to administer more protective motor vehicle emission standards unless EPA affirmatively finds that the state does not need the standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.   EPA denied California’s request in 2008, the first time in over thirty years EPA has issued a denial despite reviewing more than 50 waiver requests from California.

President Obama asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to re-consider this denial.   EPA is required to make a final decision by June 30th.

Thirteen states across the country have adopted California’s standards and are waiting final action by EPA action to enforce the greenhouse gas emission limitations, including:  Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.   Collectively, motor vehicles in these states comprise about 40 percent of the U.S. market.

The U.S. auto industry has undertaken extensive litigation challenging the states’ clean cars program in courts nationwide.


Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit