Governor sues feds over greenhouse emissions
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that California has filed suit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency for failure to act on the state’s tailpipe emissions waiver request.
The governor put the federal government on notice six months ago saying such a lawsuit would be filed if the U.S. EPA continued to delay action on California’s request for authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light trucks sold in the state. Fourteen other states are expected to join California’s lawsuit today.
California is the only state allowed under federal law to set air pollution standards higher than those imposed by the federal government. Other states have the authority to follow California’s lead. To date, 11 other states have adopted California’s standards.
“California has a long and proud history of leadership in reducing pollution and fighting for clean air for our residents. And we are upholding that tradition today by filing a lawsuit against the federal government that takes a big step forward in the battle against global warming,” said Schwarzenegger. “California is ready to implement the nation’s cleanest standards for vehicle emissions, but we cannot do that until the federal government grants a waiver allowing us to enforce those standards.
Following the filing of California’s lawsuit against the U.S. EPA today, 14 states will be announcing that they are joining California as interveners in the lawsuit, including: Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Under the Federal Clean Air Act, California has the right to set its own tougher-than-federal vehicle emission standards as long as it obtains a waiver from U.S. EPA. Over the past 30 years the U.S. EPA has granted California more than 40 such waivers, denying none.
The original request for a waiver of federal preemption of California’s Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards was made by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on Dec. 21, 2005. The waiver, allowing California to enact and enforce emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, was requested after the Air Resources
Board developed regulations based on a 2002 California law, AB 1493 by Assemblymember Fran Pavley.
That law required California to establish new standards for motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions beginning in model year 2009. The ARB-adopted regulations will phase in and ramp up over eight years to cut global warming emissions from new vehicles by nearly 30 percent by model year 2016.
By implementing these standards, California would be eliminating greenhouse gases equivalent to taking 6.5 million cars off the road by the year 2020. If all the other states with similar plans follow through, that figure would grow to nearly 22 million vehicles and would cut gasoline consumption by an estimated 11 billion gallons a year.
In letters sent on April 10, 2006 and October 24, 2006 to President Bush, the governor reiterated the urgency of approving California’s request to address global warming. On April 25, 2007, 16 months after the original waiver request, Schwarzenegger sent a letter to Administrator Johnson informing him of California’s intent to sue after 180 days under the Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedure Act, which provides mechanisms for compelling delayed agency action.
California’s request has been supported by recent judicial decisions. In September, a court decision in Vermont confirmed that states do have the ability to adopt California’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards. Sixteen states comprising about 45 percent of all U.S. auto sales have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, California’s standards.
In the Vermont case, the judge dismissed the argument by automobile manufacturers that they could not comply with the California-based regulation because the technology was out of reach and that it would cost too much. The Vermont decision came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last April saying the U.S. EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
States that have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, California’s strict automobile emissions standards are: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world, offered its support in the suit.
“The EPA has been stalling for two years, while a line of traffic is piling up behind it. It’s time for the agency to pull over, and let the dozen states that want to clean up cars drive on,” said Patricia Monahan, deputy director of the UCS Clean Vehicles program. “If the EPA grants California the waiver, the states that have adopted the standard would be able to cut hundreds of millions of metric tons of global warming pollution by 2020.”
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