EPA OKs Clean-Car Plan for Northeast


As expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday approved a fiercely debated proposal by a dozen Eastern states and the District of Columbia to use a low-emissions vehicle plan based on California’s stringent program.

Auto makers have opposed the plan, and EPA Administrator Carol Browner said her agency would continue to work for a compromise among state regulators, environmentalists and the Big Three car makers.

Like California, the states are required by the federal Clean Air Act to forge plans to lower air pollutants in the broad air basin shared by members of the Ozone Transport Commission.


The commission includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

California proponents of alternative-fuel vehicles, particularly electric cars, have been keenly interested in the outcome of the debate because extension of the California plan to the commission states could spread the California mandate to 40% of the U.S. auto market.

The commission plan does not necessarily require electric vehicles, although New York and Massachusetts have separately passed laws mandating zero-emissions vehicles--almost certainly electric cars, considering the state of current technologies.

Auto makers have opposed the proposal, arguing that it would make them produce a third category of cars in addition to conventional vehicles and cars for the California market.

Many state regulators and environmentalists say they can’t cut pollution enough without a California-style plan.

On Monday, proponents praised the decision by the EPA.

But hoping to avoid delays from lawsuits from both auto makers and environmentalists, Browner also announced Monday that efforts would continue to find a compromise “49-state car,” both for Ozone Transport states and all other states besides California.


“The broader plan still being discussed by all parties would be more cost effective and would benefit public health across the country,” Browner said.