States will sue EPA on automobile exhaust
SUSAN GORDON; The News Tribune
Washington will join California, Oregon and other states in a lawsuit that seeks to permit automobile emission restrictions that Gov. Chris Gregoire believes are central to efforts to reduce the state’s contribution to global warming.
Saying she’s frustrated by the Bush administration’s intransigence in the face of climate change, Gregoire on Thursday denounced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal Wednesday to grant states the authority to force automakers to build cleaner cars starting with the 2009 model year.
The governor called a news conference to announce she has asked Attorney General Rob McKenna to back California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legal challenge to the EPA’s “very unfortunate” decision, which she also described as obstructionist and a violation of states’ rights.
“I don’t have much doubt in my mind the states are going to win,” said Gregoire, who is also a former state attorney general. Her analysis was based on two recent rulings in California and Vermont in which federal judges rejected auto industry efforts to derail the tailpipe rules. The industry says California’s rules would be economically devastating.
Besides Gregoire, governors and officials from seven other states also pledged Thursday to support California’s legal battle.
“It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation,” Schwarzenegger said. “We will continue to fight this battle.”
Washington is among 16 states that have adopted what is commonly known as the California auto emissions standard. Together, the states account for about half of the U.S. auto market. California-style regulations also have been embraced by a majority of Canadian provinces, Gregoire noted.
The Evergreen State’s commitment to the California standard came in 2005 when the Washington Legislature endorsed what was then called the “Cleaner Cars-Cleaner Air” bill. Piggybacking on rules adopted in 2004 by the California Air Resources Board, the law would require auto manufacturers to reduce average greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016.
Gregoire told reporters she regrets the need to sue. But she said Washington, like Oregon and California, is especially vulnerable to harm related to climate change. As examples, she cited the recent flood-related devastation of Southwest Washington and the November 2006 floods, which ravaged Mount Rainier National Park and low-lying areas along the Puyallup River.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said California’s law was trumped by the new federal energy law – signed by President Bush on Wednesday – that requires automakers to increase fuel efficiency on new cars to 35 mpg by 2020. He said the federal law will achieve roughly the same global-warming results as California’s, and has the advantage of delivering a single national standard for all to follow.
But Gregoire said the federal government’s reliance on the new fuel-economy standards will impede her effort to reduce the state’s contribution to global warming.
In Washington, no other single source of greenhouse gas emissions is greater than what is produced by vehicles, which is responsible for about half of the total. “It’s our major contributing factor,” Gregoire said.
In Washington, implementation of the California standard would be like taking 690,000 cars off the road by 2020. In 2001, the state had 3.6 million registered vehicles, said Tony Usibelli, who works on energy policy for the state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development.
Without the California tailpipe rules, Gregoire said she doesn’t know how Washington can reach the goal she set earlier this year to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
While the new federal energy bill would step up regulations, it doesn’t begin as soon or demand as much improvement as the California standard, Gregoire said.
This is the second time Washington has lent legal support to California’s battle with the EPA. In October, California sued in an effort to prompt the EPA to act on the states’ request for a federal waiver to permit them to enact their own auto emissions rules. As it turned out Wednesday, the EPA denied it.
“We’re in for the long haul,” Gregoire said, and predicted the pending EPA challenge would not be resolved until the U.S. Supreme Court decides it.
But that will be time consuming, Gregoire said. At the same time, the governor said she would welcome support from lawmakers in the nation’s capital. “Maybe we need to ask Congress for help,” she said.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, said the EPA “is out of touch with the reality of climate change.” New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, called the decision “horrendous,” Maine Democratic Gov. John Baldacci called the administration “obstructionist” and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said it was “very disturbing.” Officials in New York, Connecticut, Arizona and Pennsylvania made similar comments.
Meanwhile, Washington state officials met to talk about a “draft interim report” from Gregoire’s climate advisory team. More than 300 people have spent 10 months developing 35 recommendations. They include discouraging driving by charging tolls, designing communities so people don’t have to use their cars as much and expanding composting and recycling programs.
The Ecology Department expects to post the full list online today at www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/index.htm
Of the possible greenhouse gas reductions estimated by team members, 9.5 percent are derived from the California standard, said Janice Adair, who guides climate-change policies for the Department of Ecology.
“Transportation is really the 800-pound gorilla in the emissions game in Washington,” said Usibelli.
Susan Gordon: 253-597-8756
McClatchy Newspapers and The New York Times contributed to this report.
Legal challenge regarded favorably
DAVID G. SAVAGE; Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON – Environmentalists voiced confidence Thursday that California’s bid to strictly limit greenhouse gases will survive a regulatory veto from the Bush administration, but the state’s legal challenge first will have to go through an appeals court that tilts in favor of the federal government and industry.
Often, those who want to sue can choose where to file their claim. But the Clean Air Act, like many federal regulatory measures, says that challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decisions must be filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Aides to California Attorney General Jerry Brown confirmed Thursday the state plans to sue the EPA in Washington. “Regardless of the venue, we believe our case is very strong,” said Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for Brown. “There is no legal justification for denying this waiver request.”
But the state will not be fighting on its home court. Unlike the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which leans to the left, the D.C. circuit leans right. Nine of its 13 judges are Republican appointees. They usually uphold the decisions of the administration and its regulatory agencies.
For example, the D.C. circuit has rejected a series of challenges brought on behalf of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two years ago, the D.C. circuit, in a 2-1 decision, rejected California’s challenge to the EPA’s order that held carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were not “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.
The D.C. circuit does not have the final word, however. If they lose there, proponents of California’s law would have to hope for another Supreme Court decision in their favor. Last April, in a different case, the Supreme Court took up an appeal filed by Massachusetts, California and a dozen other states and ruled, 5-4, that greenhouse gases were indeed air pollutants.