California, 15 other states sue EPA over rejected greenhouse gas law

| 1/4/2008

California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a civil lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, Jan. 2, and 15 other states signed on in the fight against the federal government.

The suit is the latest legal round of the state’s fight to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

Brown sued the EPA because of the agency’s decision last month to deny California a waiver to enforce its own greenhouse gas emission restrictions for cars and light trucks. The EPA has had exclusive rights to regulate auto emissions since the early 1970s, but California may enforce stricter limits if the EPA allows. Other states may enact California emissions laws once an EPA waiver is granted, and 15 other states attempting to enforce the car emission standard joined California’s lawsuit.

Twelve other states have already adopted California’s emission law and three additional states are moving toward adopting it, according to officials at the California Air Resources Board, or CARB.

California’s emission law doesn’t address big rigs, but CARB is working to cut CO2 emissions from diesel fuel and heavy trucks in the future.

CARB has a waiver request pending before the EPA regarding California’s new retrofit requirement for reefer units. The agency, however, doesn’t expect EPA’s rejection of the auto emission standard to affect the pending truck regulation waiver requests, said CARB spokesman Stanley Young.

Truckers have been hit with multiple CARB emission regs in recent years, including the recent implementation of a five-minute limit on truck idling. The state has an aggressive plan to cut emissions back to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The auto emission law aims to drop California’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during the year 2016.

If California can’t cut emissions from cars, trucks could be in the offing for more regulations, Young said.

“We need to develop an alternative approach to get those lost tons,” Young told Land Line. “We will be considering other options.”

CARB released a 13-page comparison on Wednesday, Jan. 2, of California’s greenhouse gas limits versus the recently approved federal CAFE standards, which are based on fuel economy. California’s law requires most strict and faster enacting standards. Fifteen other states want to adopt the California standard. The CARB report states that the California regs could prove 79 percent more effective than the federal standards.

“California consumed 11.5 percent of motor vehicle gasoline in 2005 as compared to 21 percent for the 12 states that have adopted the (emission) regulation,” CARB stated. “In sum, these 13 states consumed about one-third of the nation’s motor vehicle gasoline in 2005.”

The EPA’s decision, coming only a few days before Christmas, was roundly criticized by California regulators and several members of Congress.

The agency has asked employees to “preserve and produce” all documents related to California’s waiver request.

Last summer, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, publicized private politicking of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters as it related to the waiver request. Waxman said Peters attempted to have several governors and leaders of the automotive industry lobby EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to deny California’s waiver request. Waxman said then that Peters should have submitted comments publicly.

Waxman, who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently signaled he isn’t finished looking into the matter.

“EPA’s decision ignores the law, science, and commonsense,” Waxman said in a statement released in late December. “This is a policy dictated by politics and ideology, not facts. The committee will be investigating how and why this decision was made.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer