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Auto Industry and Green Groups Agree on Landmark Climate Policy

In a swift bit of Congressional maneuvering September 24, the U.S. Senate rejected a proposed amendment from longtime global warming skeptic Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would have effectively killed President Obama's plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. What's interesting is that the auto industry itself opposed the bill, lining up with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Murkowski's amendment to an Interior Department funding bill was ostensibly aimed only at blocking funds to regulate stationary-source climate emissions under the federal Clean Air Act. Although she acknowledged the need to regulate stationary sources--including power plants--she claimed that "the Clean Air Act would be one of the least efficient and most damaging ways to pursue that goal. It would be rife with unintended consequences, and could be devastating to our economy."

But Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the import of Murkowski's amendment, and received an unequivocal reply. "Perhaps the most striking impact [because of the way the Clean Air Act is written] would be to make it impossible for the EPA to promulgate the light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards," Jackson's letter said.

Last spring, the automakers reached a landmark agreement with the EPA and the state of California for federal regulation of those climate emissions between 2012 and 2016. It was a remarkable demonstration of cooperation, and it continues. Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told BNET Autos, "We should oppose any amendment that would delay implementation of the national program regarding greenhouse emissions and fuel economy, and subject the industry to a patchwork of regulations."

The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers and the United Auto Workers also weighed in opposing Murkowski's amendment, and environmental groups got the troops out in force against it. Some 32 organizations signed a letter urging rejection of not only it but "any other amendments that would delay America's investments in clean energy and efforts to tackle global warming."

The Alliance also opposed an effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association to sue over the EPA waiver allowing California to regulate climate emissions.

So players who had once bitterly opposed each other are now on the same page.