MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – President Barack Obama’s decision to have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reconsider whether to let Vermont and other states enforce tougher auto emission standards is being cheered in New England.

“Detroit may not realize it yet, but this is good news for them too,” said Steve Hinchman, a staff attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group based in Boston.

On Monday, the new president told the EPA to think again about whether to let states impose tougher standards on automakers and also directed his administration to move on new fuel-efficiency guidelines.

California and at least a dozen other states – including Maine – have tried to enact the tougher standards but “Washington stood in their way,” according to Obama.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci said the state now has a partner in Washington “who understands the need to promote clean, renewable energy.” Baldacci, a Democrat, said he was pleased that Obama “outlined a clear vision for our national energy future and will support flexibility for states in regards to environmental policy.”

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Obama’s decision may represent a “watershed moment” where the U.S. begins a fundamental overhaul of its national energy policy.

“While today’s announcement…is a step in the right direction, now must also be the time for the Congress to act swiftly to enact a comprehensive, bipartisan energy plan that builds on this decision today and invests in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Snowe said.

The Vermont Automobile Dealers Association did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on the issue Monday.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said the time is perfect for ordering stricter standards, despite the Big Three’s precarious condition.

“The industry is looking for billions of taxpayer dollars. Since they’re going be bailed out with taxpayer dollars, now’s the time to get on a track to a sustainable and competitive future,” Sorrell said.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas also applauded the move.

“As the first state to adopt California’s greenhouse gas emission standards and to successfully defend these standards against legal challenges by the automobile industry in federal court, Vermont has been a leader among the more than a dozen states that have adopted these standards,” said Douglas, who is a Republican.

“The authority to enforce these standards is critical in the state’s desire to reduce emissions associated with climate change because almost 45 percent of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation.”


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