Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ft. Myers News-Press: Toughen emission rules, regulator says -- Florida plan would apply to '13 models

January 27, 2009

Toughen emission rules, regulator says -- Florida plan would apply to '13 models

By Jim Ash
News-Press Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's top environmental regulator said Monday the state is ready to go with new auto-emission standards now that President Barack Obama has signaled that he will approve an identical plan for California.

"It's a great direction that President Obama has taken," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole.

The new standards would regulate tail-pipe emissions on passenger cars and light-duty trucks. They would apply to vehicles sold in Florida beginning in the 2013 model year.

The standards, which seek to cut emissions by 30 percent, are based on a fleet-wide average and would not apply to every car sold. Supporters say the average sticker price would rise between $92 and $668, depending on the make and model and how much work the manufacturer would have to do to make the car comply.

However, they argue that increased fuel savings would make up for the cost within one to six years.

Transportation accounts for 40 percent of Florida's green-house gas emissions, which scientists say are the chief culprit in global warming.

Addressing the Florida Energy and Climate Commission on Monday morning, a chief analyst for Gov. Charlie Crist's Energy Office warned that without the new auto standards, greenhouse gases from transportation will overtake the major contributor today, power plants, by 2025. Kelley Smith told commissioners that the standards could save motorists 440 million gallons of fuel a year by 2016.

The Florida Environmental Regulatory Commission approved the standards last month.

But they are far from reality. The Legislature must give its approval after it convenes in March.

Wade Hopping, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the move won't be the boon environmentalists claim and will put Florida car dealers at a disadvantage at a time when the economy is slumping.

"It seems silly to put Florida auto dealers at a disadvantage," Hopping said. "Do you want to delegate a big decision like this to some citizens board in California?"

Rep. Ron Saunders is a good example of the uphill climb supporters face in the Legislature. Saunders is a Democrat from Key West, a town environmentalists warn is in grave danger from global warming and the resulting rise in sea levels.

But Saunders was wary about burdening consumers and the industry with higher costs during the longest recession since World War II.

"We all want to protect the environment, but it depends on the economic impact," Saunders said. "We'll want to see if there are significant costs that will be passed along."

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