Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Federalism and the California waiver decision

Posted by Daniel Hall on January 30, 2009

Time will tell whether the Obama administration’s announcement is merely a symbolic reversal meant to signify greater attention to climate change, or a meaningful commitment to facilitating state leadership in environmental policy. If the former, the decision will be of little consequence, as it will take far more to impose meaningful limits on the nation’s contributions to climate change. If the latter, it could signify a long-overdue change in the shape of environmental law.

That is Jonathan Adler, writing at the NYTimes Room for Debate blog earlier this week about the decision by the new administration to make EPA reconsider granting California a waiver to pass tough vehicle emissions (read: fuel efficiency) standards.  Here is a bit more I liked:

While widely criticized, the Bush administration was well within its legal authority to reject California’s greenhouse gas regulation waiver request. However much Californians are concerned about global warming, it is difficult to argue that the state “needs” these rules to prevent climate effects there. Global climate change is a global phenomenon. The relevant airshed is not the greater Los Angeles basin, but the earth’s atmosphere as a whole, and California’s rules — even once adopted in a dozen states more — will have no meaningful effect on the climate-related threats that California fears. The Obama administration is also operating well within its legal authority to reverse course and grant the waiver. Elections have consequences.

Do check out the entire thing, with interesting contributions from several different experts.

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