Thursday, November 08, 2007

California Sues EPA Over Vehicle GHG Emission Waiver Request

Nov 8: In a precedent setting lawsuit, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr. sued the U.S. EPA, to force the agency to take action on California’s request to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington DC, charges the EPA with an unreasonable delay in reaching a decision on California’s landmark law, known as the Pavley bill, which mandates a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle emissions by 2016. Fourteen other states were expected to support California as interveners in the lawsuit.

Attorney General Brown told a news conference at the State capitol with Governor Schwarzenegger and California Air Resources Board chair, Mary Nichols that, “Despite the mounting dangers of global warming, the EPA has delayed and ignored California’s right to impose stricter environmental standards. We have waited two years and the Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. What is the EPA waiting for?” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has previously indicated that he will make a decision by the end of this calendar year. Under the Clean Air Act, passed in 1963, California can adopt environmental standards that are stricter than Federal rules, if the state obtains a waiver from the U.S. EPA. Congress allowed California to impose stricter laws in recognition of the state’s “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” After a California waiver request is granted, other states are permitted to adopt the same rules.

Sixteen other states -- Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington -- have adopted, or are in the process of adopting California’s emissions standards and are also awaiting the EPA decision. In the Act’s 40-year history, EPA has granted approximately 50 waivers for innovations like catalytic converters, exhaust emission standards, and leaded gasoline regulations. In the lawsuit, California asserts that EPA has failed to act in a reasonable length of time.

In 2002, California passed AB 1493 which require a 30 percent reduction in global warming emissions from vehicles by 2016, starting with model year 2009. In December 2005, the California Air Resources Board applied for a waiver to implement the law. Governor Schwarzenegger wrote to the EPA in April 2006 and in October 2006, requesting action on California’s application. The state asserts that EPA does not need any additional time to review the facts—the California Air Resources Board submitted a detailed 251-page assessment in 2005 and the U.S. Supreme Court already issued a decision that greenhouse gases are pollutants. In September, a Vermont District Court ruled in favor of the state regulations, rejecting a challenge from the automobile lobby.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying, "It’s ridiculous that California should have to sue EPA to get permission to implement its clean car standards. California has the legal right under the Clean Air Act to set motor vehicle pollution rules that are tougher than the federal government’s. There’s an old saying: lead, follow or get out of the way. For forty years, California has been the nation’s leader in bringing us cleaner cars. The Bush administration has been blocking this road for two years. Now it’s time for them to move to the shoulder and let California pass. California and 16 other states that have adopted or are adopting the state’s rules are taking the lead in fighting global warming. The Bush EPA should just get out of their way.”

Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort issued a statement saying, "We applaud California on its continued leadership in tackling the issue of global warming. The state legislature, the Governor and the Attorney General recognize global warming is a problem that will not simply disappear without major changes in the way our cars, power plants, and other pollution sources operate. The state's tougher emission standards for cars and trucks will lead the way for the rest of the country. Automakers can no longer drag their feet when it comes to fighting global warming. Cars and trucks are major greenhouse gas emitters, and requiring manufacturers to build cleaner cars is good for California, good for the country, and good for the planet..."

Dave McCurdy, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers issued a statement saying, "Alliance members share the concerns of our customers, the President, the Congress and the American public about fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions. It is the view of the Alliance that enhancing energy security and improving fuel economy are priorities to all Americans, but a patchwork quilt of regulations at the state level is not the answer. Automakers are currently supporting legislation in Congress that would increase fuel economy by as much as 40 percent in 2022. California’s lawsuit against the EPA is not helpful to the waiver process. EPA must deliberately and thoroughly approach the questions raised by the waiver application, especially when that application does not show that the standards address a problem unique to California. EPA can and should take the appropriate time needed to properly analyze and respond to the waiver request."

Access a release from the CA AG (click here). Access a release from Governor Schwarzenegger with links to video and additional information (click here). Access the complaint filed (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access a release from the Alliance (click here). Access previous WIMS articles and links on the California waiver from various eNewsUSA blog posts (click here). [*Climate, *Air]