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California Sues EPA For Stonewalling Law to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Light-Duty Vehicles

As promised (earlier post), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today sued the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to force the agency to take action on California’s request to curb greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty motor vehicles.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 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% reduction in motor vehicle emissions by 2016.

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?

—Attorney General Brown

According to the lawsuit, the comments submitted to the EPA overwhelmingly support the greenhouse gas regulation. Of the approximately 98,000 comments referenced in the EPA’s docket, more than 99.9% support the GHG Regulation. Only one automaker—General Motors—subject to the GHG regulation directly submitted any opposition to the EPA. Two automaker trade groups submitted opposing comments.

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 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.

In at least ten of these states, the regulations apply beginning with the 2009 model-year. They account for more than 40% of the nation’s population.

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 today’s 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% 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 US 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.

California is the most populous state in the United States, home to one in seven Americans. Its population is approaching 37 million and is projected to reach 44 million by 2020 and nearly 60 million by 2050.

There are currently 32.5 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.

Last year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, which sets a goal to cut California greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. To meet this target, California must reduce emissions by 174 million metric tons. If California’s motor vehicle emissions law is implemented, it will account for 17% of this reduction target.

Climate research shows that global warming is having a profound effect on California’s temperature, weather, air quality, and mountain snowfall, according to the state.

Fourteen other states are expected to support California as interveners in the lawsuit.

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Comments

Bob

Sue, sue, sue. Now here's the government suing the government. Way to go Arnold. Way to find yet another way to waste the citizens hard-earned money.

marcus

Good on you Arnold. Keep up the fight!

Sue, sue, sue. Now here's the government suing the government. Way to go Arnold. Way to find yet another way to waste the citizens hard-earned money.

How do you earn your money?

Cervus

At this point I just want the EPA to say yes or no. That's it. With either answer we can move forward. As long as they don't make a decision, we're stuck on pause.

Patrick

It isn't just cars...California's Energy Commission has basically adopted the EPA's Energystar requirements and applied it across the board for all appliances and most every non-battery powered consumer electronics device. No more wall warts with barely 50% efficiency!

I'm just waiting for other states to adopt the same rules that the CEC passed for California. Cars are not the only culprits in wasting energy!

Stan Wellaway

Nice timing. The EVS-23 event is due to open at Anaheim, California, in little more than 3 weeks from now ( http://www.evs23.org ) - bringing together the world's biggest players in the field of electric vehicles. (Watch out for something very interesting from Smith Electric Vehicles on Stand 513..)

Rafael Seidl

The Bush administration is simply dragging its feet to avoid being blamed for any CO2 regulation whatsoever. If it loses in court, it will likely find some way of not complying regardless.

Bush absolutely does not want the federal government to cede jurisdiction over energy policy to individual states. The lobbying dollars involved are fairly staggering.

Cervus

Rafael:

A consistent national policy rather than a regulatory patchwork would be a better idea, IMO. This is why we have an EPA in the first place, and that California needs a special waiver.

HealthyBreeze

Cervus,

California has always led on the environment, which is why grandfathered langauge in the Clean Air Act allows California to set higher standards than the federal government. California is a big enough car market (and most other polluting technologies) that the market will respond with the required cleaner goods.

The beautiful thing is that a dozen or so states have the right, also per the CAC, to follow whatever California does. This is beautiful, because Bush does not want cleaner air, so the federal government has become an obstacle to improvement, and the EPA thwarted in its mission. I have a friend who is an attorney for the EPA (basically a prosecutor of gross polluters) and she says the Bush administration has been very demoralizing for her and her peers. Political hacks have been appointed in so many places that they have incapacitated much of the organization.

So, sure, higher minimum standards nationally would be great, but national standards should be the floor, not the ceiling.

Cervus

HB:

Regardless, states either follow the EPA requirements, or California's. This way we don't have 50 different regulatory requirements.

Given the recent Supreme Court decision on CO2 and the fact that so many states have already signed on, I'd like to see a yes or no answer from the EPA.

Kit P

It has been so long since I have lived in California that I do not remember what air pollution or being stuck on the freeway is like. I do not want Bush to enact national laws to solve California problems.

Harvey D

Kit P;

Dont worry. The President will veto the Supreme Court and claim that freedom to pollute is part of the American heritage.

George

Kit P: It has been so long since I have lived in California that I do not remember what air pollution or being stuck on the freeway is like. I do not want Bush to enact national laws to solve California problems.

Uh, Kit... No one is asking Bush to enact a national law to solve California's problem. We are asking him to get his ass out of the way and let California solve their own problem.

yesplease

Rafael, do you have a ballpark idea on the number of dollars?

Engineer-Poet

Waitaminnit, hasn't Kit P been saying that he lives in one of the California metropoli?  I recall Los Angeles.  Can someone search his comments and verify?

Vin Diesel

That stinks that you need a waiver from the EPA in order to implement promising new technologies like catalytic converters, etc.

David

I have a question. Is it possible for California to currently control the amount of CO2 emitted from its cars by putting restrictions on the number of certain types of vehicles that it allows to be registered every year? In other words, x% of the vehicles must get between 10 and 20 mpg, y% between 20 and 35 mpg, and z% 35 or above. Something like that. Or does the EPA control that too?

Cervus

David:

You can't rigidly control consumer behavior like that, not that CARB hasn't tried with its ZEV mandate. Registration fees based on fuel consumption would be much more workable.

Libby Tarianne

The Invisible Hand knows best. Stay out of Its way.

Cervus

E-P:

There is a growing multitude of hybrid vehicles, both on the road and in development. R&D in alternative fuels and batteries is increasing, but will take a while to bear fruit. To me, that is the 'invisible hand' at work. It does not have to be instantaneous.

Libby Tarianne

The Invisible Hand knows all, sees all. Those who do not worship It, beware the consequences, for It is wrathful. Seek not the false idol of wise governance.

Engineer-Poet

Yeah, Cervus, but why are there still 12-MPG Escalades if the "Invisible Hand" knows that gasoline is headed upwards from $3/gallon?

For that matter, why didn't the "Invisible Hand" see the need for catalytic converters and carbon canisters to cut smog-producing emissions?  Lots of people would have paid money for clean air, but the government had to force it to get anywhere.

Market forces can only react to the immediate situation.  The "Asian Flu" collapsed oil prices because of short-term considerations, when the peak of crude+condensate production was only about 7 years away (May 2005); there was no way to go "long" when oil costs so much to store and capital investment needs to be repaid.  Furthermore, market forces can only act on information available, and the information about OPEC reserves has been thoroughly corrupted.

Government policy fills the gaps.

sulleny

I wish we could just do everything we want! All the time. Raise gas taxes. Stop building misbehaved cars. Control the internet. Remove recalcitrants to a prison planet. It's either my way or the zero emission hiway! Let's get real ly tough now.

Arnold

Id like to leave it to the invisible hand, just lay back holidays, luxury, freinds and family, I can see it now. Then I fell out of bed.
For our own good laws (almost) by definition are required to limit self destructive behaviour and would not be required if we somehow were only capable of doing good.
In the meantime the balance point weighs the rights of individuals , he limitations of the possible and the harm to he masses.
It simply is not in legislators interests to get his wrong as the elected representatives and legislators have their credibility at stake. Credibility is any entity's first and last asset.

sjc

When someone drives a vehicle that gets poor mileage, we all pay the price. These are ethics and national security issues. To me, if a state wants to make it better for their state and the country, that is their right.

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