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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

David

A year ago the supreme court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate carbon dioxide. The basic argument was that the EPA was designed to regulate pollution and that carbon dioxide, as a global warming agent, was a pollutant.

This was, in my opinion, a horrible decision and precisely one which illustrates the conservatives' argument against the supreme court. I have studied the case for and against carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. But, regardless of either mine or your opinion, I do believe that most fair minded people will say that there is a legitimate question about whether the phenomenon is true and/or is attributable to man. However, the place to decide public policy is in the political arena. Let a bill be brought, let there be reviews and hearings, and then an up or down vote. I am fine with that. But, to let nine judges make a public policy decision like this is nonsense. These are lawyers, not scientists.

The consequence of their decision is, of course, predictable. We now have lawsuits against the EPA saying that the MUST enforce carbon dioxide limits. The next step is going to be to decide what those limits are to be and how they are to be enforced. This will impact almost every level of our society. For example, if the courts rule that a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide must be achieved then we shut down coal plants, stop making big cars, etc. This means that coal miners go out of work. Electric rates go up which makes the US hugely uncompetitive against India and China (meaning, yet again, another round of layoffs). Auto companies lay off the makers of large cars, etc, etc.

This is a massive re-organization of our society based entirely upon a 5-4 decision on the supreme court. The costs will be measured in the trillions. And, all this, without a vote. What kind of democracy is this?

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