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New Standards

September 28, 2011 | By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
The federal government plans to delay until mid-November new rules to implement a set of fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks, administration officials said Tuesday. In late July, President Obama announced a deal that called for cars and light trucks to achieve a fleet-wide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, nearly double the 2011 model year average of 27.8 mpg. The new standard would be phased in beginning in 2017. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department were to issue the rules this week.
August 23, 2011 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. said they will work together to develop an advanced hybrid drivetrain system for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles. The move represented a strategy by both companies to improve fuel economy in larger vehicles long before stricter federal fuel economy rules take effect with the 2017 model year, said Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital. The new standards are expected to provide extra credits toward meeting fuel efficiency targets for companies that develop hybrid gas-and-electric drivetrains for pickup trucks.
July 27, 2011 | By Neela Banerjee
In 2025, when the auto industry would be required to meet a 54.5-mile-per-gallon fuel economy target that the Obama administration is about to announce, the vehicles Americans will drive may not look very different than those on the road today, industry and environmental experts say. But what will be under the hood is another story. From pick-up trucks and SUVs to hybrids and subcompact cars, almost every vehicle sold in the United States is likely to boast the advanced technology now confined to only the most fuel-efficient.
April 6, 2011 | By Kenji Hall and Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times
The operator of Japan's stricken nuclear plant said Wednesday that it had apparently contained at least one leak that was allowing radiation to seep into the sea. Tokyo Electric Power Co. had said Tuesday that it had found iodine-131 at 7.5 million times the legal limit in a seawater sample taken near the facility, and government officials instituted a health limit for radioactivity in fish. Other samples were found to contain radioactive cesium at 1.1 million times the legal limit.
March 16, 2011 | By Julie Mianecki, Washington Bureau
New federal regulations improving access for the disabled took effect Tuesday at more than 7 million facilities nationwide, including many used for recreation. The changes, required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, affect places such as amusement parks and movie theaters. "If you went on vacation and your family was going to go play a game of miniature golf, up until now, a child in a wheelchair would have to sit on the side and watch everybody else have fun," said Maureen Fitzgerald, director of disability rights at the Disability Policy Collaboration, an advocacy group.
January 5, 2011 | By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times
The federal government has approved a state plan that calls for significant reductions in pollution from agricultural runoff and dam operations on the Klamath River, setting the stage for a long-awaited cleanup of one of California's major salmon rivers. The new water quality standards are intended to help restore a river once home to bountiful salmon runs but more recently known as a polluted, water-starved battleground for farmers, tribes and salmon fishermen. "It's nice to have a victory like this after so many years of litigation," said Glen Spain, northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns.
January 4, 2011 | By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
In a move that could signal a long-awaited return to business as usual in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration announced Monday that it would allow 13 companies to resume deep-water oil and gas drilling that was suspended after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion last spring. The administration had imposed a drilling moratorium after the April 20 accident at the BP well, which killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the gulf in the country's worst offshore oil disaster.
December 16, 2010 | By Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger, Los Angeles Times
The most comprehensive overhaul of motor vehicle safety laws in a decade, which once seemed certain in the wake of Toyota's sudden-acceleration problems, may never reach a vote in Congress. "It is hanging on by a thread," said Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate who became deeply involved in pushing for the overhaul. "It is a once-in-20-year opportunity. A bill like this is not going to come by again. " The legislation, S.3302, has 23 major provisions that would create new safety standards, increase fines against automakers for violating federal rules and put an emphasis for the first time on safeguarding the electronic systems now ubiquitous in motor vehicles.
November 10, 2010 | By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times
Southern California air pollution officials have moved to clamp down on toxic emissions from two battery recycling plants in Los Angeles County. The regulations, announced this week, are designed to meet the first new federal standards for airborne lead pollution in three decades, which were adopted in 2008. But Shankar B. Prasad, a physician with the Sacramento-based Coalition for Clean Air, said the South Coast Air Quality Management District "missed a great opportunity to enforce a more health-protective limit on lead emissions, even when the technology is readily available.
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