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Calif. officials expect EPA denial of state emissions waiver

Calif. officials expect EPA denial of state emissions waiver

California state officials believe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ready to deny the state's request to implement tougher-than-federal emission standards for cars and trucks.

   The state has been seeking the waiver from the EPA for several years, but state officials believe that a decision against the state could come at any moment. The EPA has said little about the waiver, except to promise that it will be answered by the end of the year.

   State officials have brought enormous political pressure to bear on the topic, also eliciting the help of 16 other states that will be able to enforce their own stringent regulations if California obtains the waiver.

   Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. on Tuesday said she has 'very little hope' that the waiver will be granted. Boxer also said the decision is not likely to be made at the EPA. 'A lot of this leads back to the vice president's office,' Boxer said. 'Politics is alive and well in relation to this waiver.'

   California officials first asked the EPA in 2005 for a waiver to enforce a 2002 state law setting strict vehicle emissions standards for new cars. The law calls for a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by 2016.

   The state is able to enforce regulations tougher than the federal standards due to its unique standing as having laws on the book regarding emissions before the federal Clean Air Act was passed. However, California must receive a waiver from Washington to enact new rules. In the past 30 years, the EPA has granted 40 such waivers while denying none.

   In a terse letter to the EPA earlier this year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to sue if the agency did not move forward with the waiver approval.

   In November, Schwarzenegger made good on his six-month-old promise and sued the EPA to end the delays over the waiver. More than a dozen states also joined in the suit, citing their own similar legislation that cannot move forward until California's law is adopted.

   Schwarzenegger said in October that he hopes the lawsuit moves the process forward. However, the governor made it clear that further EPA inaction or a denial of the state's request for a waiver would prompt further litigation.

   “We’re going to sue again and sue again and sue again until we get it,” Schwarzenegger said. ' Keith Higginbotham

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