Cleaner Cars Protect Human Health, Save Families Money at the Pump

March 5, 2009
Contact: 

(Washington — March 5, 2009) Environmental Defense Fund Chief Health Scientist Dr. John Balbus will testify at a key federal hearing today that immediate action to reduce global warming pollution is necessary to protect the health of millions of Californians.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding the hearing to receive expert testimony as it reconsiders the Bush Administration”s controversial denial of a waiver for California”s Clean Car program.
 
The program, which has been adopted in 13 additional states across the country, would significantly cut global warming pollution from motor vehicles. California and the 13 states need EPA to grant the waiver under the Clean Air Act before they can implement the clean car program
 
Former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California”s request for the waiver in March 2008, despite the unanimous recommendation of EPA”s career staff that it should be approved. Prior to that denial, EPA had granted more than 50 waiver requests over the past thirty years.  On January 26th, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing EPA to reconsider the decision. 
 
Dr. Balbus will testify today that, global warming “is a clear and present danger to Californians who are at risk of severe drought, dangerous heat waves, rising sea levels, more wildfires and worsening smog pollution.   Reducing greenhouse gases today is essential to begin addressing the serious health effects of the climate crisis for millions of Californians.”  
 
Dr. Balbus” full testimony is available at: http://edf.org/documents/9328_balbus-testimony-california-waiver.pdf
 
The program will also cut costs at the pump. Derek Walker, director of EDF"s California Climate Initiative, said, “California”s clean car program relies on today”s technologies to cut global warming pollution and save California”s families money at the gas pump.   California found that low-income households would save about $300 a year from cleaner vehicles that emit less pollution and use less fuel.” 
 
Background
 
Cars are a Major Source of Global Warming Pollution
 
Cars and light trucks are one of America”s largest sources of global warming pollution, and the fastest growing. Cars and light trucks account for nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in California and about 16 percent of U.S. global warming pollution.  
 
California and Bipartisan States Have Led the Way
 
In a 2002 landmark law, California enacted the nation”s first ever binding limits on global warming pollution from passenger vehicles. Thirteen states across the country have adopted California”s standards and are awaiting favorable 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.   States such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Utah are considering adoption of the Clean Cars program.   Collectively, motor vehicles in these states comprise about forty percent of the U.S. market.
 
A Flexible Program to Cut Heat-Trapping Gases From Passenger Vehicles
 
California”s program provides for a flexible fleetwide average to achieve the standards, which were scheduled to take effect for new passenger vehicles beginning in model year 2009.   The program is projected to cut emissions from new vehicles 30 percent by 2016.   The standards can be readily achieved through available engine technologies, cleaner fuels and mitigation of air conditioning emissions.  
 
Progress Obstructed by the Bush Administration. 
 
California requested a preemption waiver under the Clean Air Act in 2005. But the Bush administration”s EPA denied the request.   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 and granting more than 50 waiver requests from California. 
 
Governor Schwarzenegger Asks President Obama to Take Corrective Action
 
California”s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger formally asked President Barack Obama to “immediately reconsider” the Bush administration”s 2008 denial of California”s Clean Cars program to cut global warming pollution. In a January 21, 2009 letter calling the denial by the Bush administration”s EPA “fundamentally flawed,” Governor Schwarzenegger said approving California”s landmark program “will not only reduce these emissions, but will also save drivers money and reduce our nation”s dependence on imported oil.”
 
Fuel Cost Savings for Low Income Households
 
California found that low-income households driving a clean vehicle would reduce gasoline consumption by about 100 gallons annually and would save about $360 in fuel costs alone in 2020, assuming a gas price of $3.67 a gallon.   The net savings for low income households are projected to be $300 a year when the annualized costs are included.
 
In summary, global climate change poses a clear and present danger to the health of Californians, who are at risk of severe drought, dangerous heat waves, rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires and worsening smog pollution.   Because of these health related impacts alone, California has compelling and extraordinary conditions that justify the adoption of its Motor vehicle GHG standards. Reducing greenhouse gases today is essential to begin addressing the serious health effects of the climate crisis for millions of Californians.   Environmental Defense Fund urges EPA to immediately and finally grant California”s request for a preemption waiver.