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Policy Update 10/6/2010 - EPA/DOT Propose Stronger Auto Efficiency Standards (VIDEO)

4
Oct

Policy Update 10/6/2010 - EPA/DOT Propose Stronger Auto Efficiency Standards (VIDEO)

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Last week, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) announced their intent to set progressively stronger efficiency standards for new cars: 47-62 mpg by 2025. Congress wrapped up its pre-election business promptly to allow members to return home and campaign.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Beginning of Senate Lame Duck session (tentative)

Obama Administration proposes another strong cars rule

In spring of 2009, President Obama worked with automakers to push for 35.5 mpg standards by 2016, and is now beginning a second rulemaking process that will set even stronger standards for new vehicles: 47-62 mpg by 2025, which represents a 3-6% annual improvement beyond the existing 2016 standards. This announcement represents a stage of administrative rulemaking called a "Notice of Intent" (NOI), essentially a draft rule made public to allow stakeholders to weigh in. The final rule will not be finalized until July of 2012.

Our allies at Environment America, Sierra Club, and other groups are advocating for a 60 mpg standard. According to the EPA, a 62 mpg standard is doable if much of the new fleet is made up of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Congress Adjourns

Last week, Congress adjourned before considering whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts. They'll be back home for at least six more weeks before returning to D.C. in mid-November to finish out the session.

Eying the lame duck session, Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) admits that there is little hope of seeing his "Dirty Air Act" signed into law given the presidential veto threat on the table. Senator Rockefeller has doubts about whether or not the bill will be taken up this fall, and admits that it's a messaging bill, designed for this political moment, and that he is not set on pushing it through in the next Congress.

Health groups have begun to weigh in strongly against any Clean Air Act rollbacks, as part of a larger campaign to protect public health via updated EPA regulations for harmful emissions.

RES (Renewable Electricity Standard) advocates on the Hill are less optimistic about passage of a simple (but weak) RES in the lame duck session. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) called passage of the RES a "long shot," noting that the top issues will be the Bush tax cuts, the appropriations bill, and a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

The Bingaman-Brownback RES has 29 co-sponsors, but Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) CES ("Clean" Electricity Standard) bill threatens to upset the RES apple cart by introducing controversial nuclear energy and biomass provisions into the mix.

Looking Back and Looking Forward on Climate Legislation

There were three major articles last week regarding climate action:

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, President Obama affirms he is committed to using the "whole weight of the presidency" to tackle climate change, calling it an "urgent priority" for the next two-year congressional session.

The Wall Street Journal points out that President Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is better-suited than Rahm Emanuel to handle a more "incremental" legislative approach to major issues, like climate change.

Finally, This must-read New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza digs deep into the political dynamics between major players in the Senate climate and energy bill. The in-depth story highlights lapses in leadership at many levels, and underscores the need to focus on building a more powerful grassroots movement.

Movement Highlights:

Appalachia Rising brought together thousands in D.C. last week to protest mountaintop removal coal mining. See photos from the protest and read our wrap-up on our blog.

A coalition of labor, education, social justice and environmental groups teamed up to put on the "One Nation Working Together" rally on the National Mall on Saturday. Tens of thousand of progressives groups and leaders -- including 1Sky -- attended the rally.

The 10/10/10 Global Work Party is less than a week away. Right now there are 5978 events set up in 183 countries. Academy-Award nominated actress Ellen Page (from films such as Inception and Juno fame) promotes the international day of action in this YouTube video:

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