California air quality regulators told a Congressional committee Wednesday that the state's implementation of a 2006 climate change law (AB 32) could be jeopardized by legislative proposals to rollback plans to expand federal Clean Air Act restrictions to include greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles.

Environmental blogs are abuzz with allegations that proposals in the House of Representatives and Senate related to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans regarding GHG emissions are a direct attack on California's long-standing emissions restrictions in the transportation sector and its upcoming implementation of AB 32.

James Goldstene, the executive officer the California Air Resources Board (CARB), testified against Congress blocking the EPA from attempting to reduce carbon emissions with added restrictions on GHG emissions, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is within the federal air agency's jurisdiction. Three years ago the high court ruled that EPA was in error when it rejected a request to initiate a rulemaking to regulate GHG emissions and remanded the case to the agency to revisit the issue (see Daily GPI, April 3, 2007).

"Preempting the authority for EPA to regulate the emissions of vehicles would rob the country of one of its most powerful tools, not just to reduce carbon pollution, but also to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to save consumer money," Goldstene told a subcommittee meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, examining the proposed "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011."

California advocates for GHG regulation, which has sweeping implications for both the transportation and energy sectors, are concerned that the state's nearly 50-year history of setting stringent motor vehicle emission standards will be threatened by proposals authored in the House by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and in the Senate by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

"Since the 1980s, each successive California standard has gone on to become the national standard," CARB's Goldstene told the lawmakers.

Environmentalists backing CARB and implementation of the climate change law allege that the proposed federal legislation would be a major setback to California's efforts to mitigate global warming by overturning EPA's determination that GHG endangers human health and the Supreme Court ruling, along with blocking efforts to require lower emissions by the power generation, refining and transportation sectors.

Congressional backers of the proposed curbs on EPA argue that the federal agency's attempt to expand the Clean Air Act is a "power grab" that has long-term adverse economic consequences that will kill jobs and impose regulations on "virtually every aspect of American business."

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