Attorney General Brown and Governor Schwarzenegger to Sue Federal EPA Over Refusal to Allow California to Impose Greenhouse Gas Emission Limits on Vehicles4 min read

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Waiver Denied to California and 16 Other States on Crucial Global Warming Initiative

Today the Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency denied California and at least 16 other states that want to enforce our stricter laws to control greenhouse gases from automobiles and SUV’s that cause global warming. The EPA rejected a waiver requested by California and these other states, a request that has been pending for over two years and is the kind that has been approved many times for California under the Clean Air Act since its adoption in 1963.

This not only has the potential to gut landmark legislation passed by our state’s legislature in 2006, AB 32 (Nunez), but to prevent implementation of a 2004 California law, AB 1493, by then Assemblymember Fran Pavley and regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons– greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles, beginning with model year 2009.

Conservatives are supposed to believe in state’s rights and often use rhetoric calling the states the “laboratories of democracy.” They are also supposed to believe in law and order. However, this is just rhetoric when it comes to allowing the states to move forward where the federal government has not—protecting us from the biggest threat the environment knows today—global warming.

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court had “little trouble concluding” that the Clean Air Act provides authority to address carbon dioxide emissions in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, In so ruling, the Court understood the need to address this particular pollution from cars and trucks in the fight against global warming, stating that: “Judged by any standard, U.S. motor-vehicle emissions make a meaningful contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations.”

A week ago California won a lawsuit filed by the automobile industry that sought to gut the Paveley standards. The U.S. District Court in Fresno concluded that both California and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are equally empowered under the Clean Air Act to set regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The court also ruled that California regulations do not conflict with federal authority. The court’s opinion can be read online.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown Jr. blasted the EPA’s actions, saying “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. There is absolutely no legal justification for the Bush administration to deny this request—-Governor Schwarzenegger and I are preparing to sue at the earliest possible moment.”

Under the Clean Air Act, California can adopt stricter standards by requesting a waiver from EPA and such requests have been approved more than 50 times in the past. California’s law requires a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions standards from motor vehicles by 2016.

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

Approval of California’s waiver would have meant that other states get approval automatically.

Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963 and subsequent amendments in 1967, 1970 and 1977 expressly allowed California to impose stricter environmental regulations in recognition of the state’s “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” including topography, climate, high number and concentration of vehicles and its pioneering role in vehicle emissions regulation. Brown said Congress intended the state to continue its pioneering efforts at adopting stricter motor vehicle emissions standards, far more advanced than the federal rules.

Section 307 of the Clean Air Act gives California the authority to challenge a waiver decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The state must file a petition to review the EPA’s waiver decision within 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Under the Clean Air Act, California can adopt stricter emissions standards than the federal government—thereby allowing other states to also adopt the standards—but the state must first obtain a waiver of federal preemption from the Environmental Protection Agency. California filed its request in December 2005 and has been awaiting a response ever since.

There are 32 million registered vehicles in California, twice the number of any other state. Cars generate 20% of all human-made carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and at least 30% of such emissions in California. If California’s landmark global warming law—and the corresponding 30% improvement in emissions standards—were adopted nationally, the United States could cut annual oil imports by $100 billion dollars, at $50 per barrel.

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