Calif., 15 states sue EPA over greenhouse gases
The state of California, 15 other states, and five environmental groups filed suit Wednesday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking to reverse a federal denial two weeks ago of an EPA waiver sought by California.
The waiver would have allowed California to enact a state law — passed in 2002 but not yet implemented — that seeks to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide from cars and trucks. Nineteen other states are awaiting California's enactment of the law to allow each to pass implement their own versions.
On Dec. 19, the Bush administration denied the two-year-old California waiver request, saying that a new federal energy bill — signed the same day — pre-empts the California law by setting tougher national standards than sought in the state law. The EPA denial argued that because greenhouse gas emissions “harm the environment in California and elsewhere regardless of where the emissions occur,” California does not face an “exclusive or unique” challenge requiring special emission regulations.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in announcing the EPA suit, said the state and other parties are seeking to reverse the denial and called the EPA decision 'wrong.'
“It is unconscionable that the federal government is keeping California and 19 other states from adopting these standards,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “They are ignoring the will of millions of people who want their government to take action in the fight against global warming.”
State officials maintain that California need only show that its faces a serious global-warming danger — and not necessarily a unique danger — in order to receive the EPA waiver.
The state chose to file the case in the San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and take advantage of an oversight in the EPA denial ruling allowing the case to be filed outside of Washington, as is typical in such cases. The Ninth Circuit Court is known for being more liberal in its rulings than the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California can set stricter-than-federal emission standards as long as the state obtains a federal waiver from the EPA. Last month's denial was the first after more than 40 EPA-approved California waivers over the past 40 years.
In 2002, California approved the emission law with a goal of eliminating 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and trucks in the state by 2016. The state tried to enact the standards set forth in the law, but a court ruled that while California does have the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the state required an EPA waiver before doing so. The state first asked for the waiver from the EPA regarding the law in 2005.
The federal energy bill, passed by Congress earlier this year and enacted by the White House on Dec. 19, seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by raising national fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
The 2002 California law would achieve its 30 percent greenhouse gas reduction by increasing California automobile fuel economy from the current 27.5 mpg to just under 34 mpg by 2016.
Two weeks ago, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. questioned not only the EPA decision but also its basis in law.
'It is completely absurd to assert that California does not have a compelling need to fight global warming by curbing greenhouse gas emissions from cars,' Brown said. 'There is absolutely no legal justification for the Bush administration to deny this request.'
Brown also noted that this decision not only affects California but numerous other states as well. Nineteen other states — Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington — have adopted, or are in the process of adopting California's emissions standards. EPA approval of California's waiver would have applied to these other states standards without separate waiver requests to the EPA.
All but Colorado, Iowa, Montana and Utah joined in Wednesday's suit with California.
Also joining the suit were five environmental groups: the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the International Center for Technology Assessment, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club. ' Keith Higginbotham