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Obama signs environmental memoranda

From NBC's Athena Jones

WASHINGTON -- In his latest effort to mark a clear departure from his predecessor's policies, President Obama signed two presidential memoranda that set new fuel efficiency standards and addressed greenhouse gas emissions.

The documents implement new fuel efficiency standards for cars for the model year 2011 and direct the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the Bush administration's denial of the California waiver request that would allow the state to impose its own tough restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, though that memorandum does not order that the waiver be granted.

Obama has sought to tie the quest to develop more renewable energy sources with America's economic and national security. He began today's brief announcement by talking about jobs losses at firms like Microsoft and Caterpillar and said the economic recovery plan before Congress would put people to work, while helping reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.

"Now is the time to make the tough choices," Obama said. "Now is the time to meet the challenge of this crossroads in history by choosing a future that is safe for our country, prosperous for our planet and sustainable."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and EPA Director Lisa Jackson accompanied the president at the East Room event before representatives from the Auto Alliance, Wal-Mart, environmental groups like The Ocean Conservancy, Environment America and the Sierra Club among others.

Reprising a theme he touched on often on the campaign trail, the president said no single issue was as fundamental to America's future as energy and that the country's dependence on foreign oil helped support dictators, pay for nuclear proliferation, fund terrorism and hurt our ability to compete.

He said action was needed on climate change and that America must show its willingness to lead the world on clean energy and energy indendence.

"It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with you our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence, for the sake or our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and the commitment to change," he said. "It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil, while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs."

The president has repeatedly said that an economic recovery would not happen overnight and today he stressed that the road to building a clean energy economy and reaching energy independence would also be long.

NBC's From Les Kretman adds Jackson said in a written statement: "Knowing EPA has the full support of the President as we proceed to revisit the Bush era denial of the California waiver is very encouraging. The president's actions today herald a seachange in America's commitment to addressing climate change."

NBC's Mike Viqueira has the response from House Minority Leader John Boehner: "The President's action today is disappointing," Boehner said in a written statement. "The effect of this policy will be to destroy American jobs at the very time government leaders should be working together to protect and create them. Millions of American jobs will be placed in further jeopardy if automakers are forced to spend billions to comply with potentially dozens of different emissions standards in dozens of different states."