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Governator outs Dubya's global-warming 'time bomb'

'I preempt your preemption'

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The Governator thinks W is useless when it comes to regulating stuff spewed into the atmosphere by American cars and trucks.

Yesterday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and 11 other US state head honchos fired a letter at President George W. Bush, complaining that his Department of Transportation is trying to undermine their efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, calling for a 25 per cent improvement over the next five years. "This proposal is historically ambitious, yet achievable,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a canned statement. "It will help us all breathe a little easier by reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable."

But on page 375 of this 417-page proposal, there's a short paragraph that says the NHTSA's fuel efficiency standards would "preempt" efforts by the states to regulate tailpipe emissions. You see, only the federal government can regulate fuel economy, and the Department of Transportation is arguing that regulating fuel economy is "related to" regulating tailpipe emissions.

Speaking during a news conference at the California state capitol yesterday, the chair of the California Air Resources Board called that short paragraph "a buried time bomb ticking away, and aimed directly at the heart of the nation's efforts to control our contributions to global warming." And this view is shared by Schwartzenegger and his fellow governors.

"We are disappointed that your administration has chosen not to support our efforts to make real progress in controlling greenhouse gas emissions," their letter to Bush reads. "States must take this action because the federal government has not adequately responded to this urgent threat." Compared to W's proposal, says the Air Resources Board, California's tailpipe plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an extra 69 per cent over the next 12 years.

The administration's effort to preempt state regulations is nothing new, and previous efforts have been rejected by two federal courts. Meanwhile, under the US Clean Air Act, California and the other states have the right to regulate their own tailpipe emissions - as long as they get a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency. But the EPA won't give them waiver, and the states recently sued to agency to get one.

They're prepared to sue the NHTSA as well. "The NHTSA shouldn't even be regulating greenhouse gases," a spokeswoman for the Governator told us. "The EPA should, and we're already fighting them for a waiver."

A spokesperson for the NHTSA declined to comment on the matter. "All we've done is issue a proposal, and we're now taking comments," he said. "So we have nothing to say at this time." ®

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