News Break: Obama Clears Path to Allow California Emissions Waiver and Set Standards for Improved Fuel Efficiency

President Barack Obama today signed a presidential memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency, now under the direction of Lisa Jackson, to reconsider the Bush-era refusal to grant a waiver to California and at least seventeen other states allowing them to set their own standards regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

Despite former EPA administrator Stephen Johnson initially agreeing with staff recommendations to approve the waiver, he ultimately declined to grant it at the apparent urging of the Bush/Cheney White House. The ongoing intransigence led to Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sue the Bush administration. Numerous Congressional hearings attempted – and generally failed – to force Johnson to explain his reasoning and to what extend communications from the White House and vice president Dick Cheney’s office influenced Johnson’s decision

A second presidential memoranda signed by Obama directs Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to establish rules implementing a 2007 law the requires a 40% improvement in gas mileage for cars and light trucks by 2020. The Bush administration had failed to make any progress in writing regulation to comply with the law

Obama’s memorandum orders temporary regulations be in place by March to give automakers time to retool for vehicles sold in the 2011 model year. Final standards beyond that will be set in a separate process later this year taking into account “legal, scientific, and technological issues”.

Obama stands ready to make good on his promise to aggressively move forward on environmental issues.

As pleased and thrilled as I was to have been in Washington last week to witness Obama’s inauguration, I am even more thrilled to see him take charge on these issues. Too much time has already been wasted.

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists