California sues EPA over emission standards

| 11/9/2007

California sued the federal government Thursday, Nov. 8, saying the White House and its ties to the auto industry are blocking the rights of 15 states to require tougher tailpipe emissions standards for cars and light trucks.

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Bush has no legal basis for not deciding whether to grant California a waiver to enforce the greenhouse gas cuts, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, CARB Chairman Mary Nichols and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. They spoke to a crowd of supporters on the east steps of the State Capital in Sacramento.

California’s tailpipe emissions law requires auto manufacturers to begin cutting greenhouse gases for 2009 models of cars and light trucks. The law would continually force stricter standards every year, including a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2016.

In recent months, Schwarzenegger has repeatedly asserted himself and California as the governmental representatives of global warming for the U.S., even addressing the United Nations and countries in Europe about climate change.

“I think it is time now to step it up,” Schwarzenegger said. “Our future depends on us taking action against global warming right now … if all 14 states implement this new requirement, it will be the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road. America is committed in fighting global warming.”

California is pursuing the nation’s first pollution limits on greenhouse gases for cars and light trucks. Auto manufacturers have filed legal challenges against the law, although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA must recognize greenhouse gases as a pollutant.

California has special permission to issue tougher air pollution regulations than the federal government if it obtains a waiver from the federal government. Schwarzenegger noted that in the last 30 years, California has received 40 such waivers and hasn’t been denied a single request.

“The Governator” also noted that 14 other states are expected to join California’s lawsuit as intervenors, including Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“The states are taking the lead – we are not waiting for Washington,” Schwarzenegger said, wearing a green tie. “It will be a model for the rest of the world.”

Thursday’s press conference appeared more like a pep rally for the green movement, although Schwarzenegger also faced questions about his state’s recent wildfires and strike of Hollywood screenwriters. Schwarzenegger answered one reporter’s question by saying the state would file lawsuit after lawsuit to see the law upheld.

The three state officers acknowledged that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson may be unlikely to issue a waiver, but Schwarzenegger said, “We’ll sue again, and sue again and sue again until we get it.”

CARB’s Nichols said, “The EPA is running out the clock and they need to stop now.”

“We’re gonna fight this lawsuit hard and whatever decisions they make, we’re going to hold the EPA to the highest standards of the federal government,” said Brown, the onetime governor and former mayor of Oakland.

“EPA – get out of the way,” he said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer