Schwarzenegger Says Tailpipe Emissions Lawsuit Inevitable

SACRAMENTO, California, June 13, 2007 (ENS) - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today warned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that a lawsuit over California's tough motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards is "inevitable" unless the federal agency decides whether or not to allow them by October 24, 2007.

Under the Federal Clean Air Act, California has the right to set its own vehicle emission standards. Other states have the right to adopt the California standards as their own, upon receipt of a waiver from the U.S. EPA.

In 2004, California adopted the nation's first regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars. It requires emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants to be reduced by 22 percent by the 2012 model year and 30 percent by the 2016 model year.

Eleven other states have adopted California's vehicle emissions standards - Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Last Friday, U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson told the U.S. House of Representatives Special Committee on Global Warming that he intends to wait until late next year to decide on whether to issue regulations controlling emissions from vehicles.

In his letter to Johnson today, Governor Schwarzenegger objected to that delay. He also complained that as recently as this week, "The U.S. Department of Transportation defended the fact that department officials are contacting members of Congress and urging them to oppose our efforts to fight global climate change."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
If California has to wait until late next year for EPA action on the waiver, the governor wrote, it will have been three years since the state's original request.

By that time, "especially given a federal agency's active opposition to our waiver, our respective governments will be embroiled in a lawsuit over these regulations," Schwarzenegger wrote.

"However, we had frankly held out hope that this dispute would be resolved without the time and expense of a lengthy court battle. Given your comments in front of the Special Committee and the work of the U.S. Department of Transportation, a lawsuit on the 181st day now appears to be inevitable," the governor wrote.

California gave 180-day notice on April 26, 2007, of the state's intent to sue under the Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedure Act, which provide mechanisms for compelling delayed agency action. That 181st day falls on October 24.

"I ask you act immediately on California's longstanding request for a federal preemption waiver for California's motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards waiver request," wrote Schwarzenegger. "It is the right thing to do. It is urgent. And it is the law."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, AMA, an association of the largest automakers in the United States, opposes the waiver saying that "a patchwork of state-level fuel economy regulations as is now proposed by California is not just unnecessary but actually counter-productive."

The EPA is obligated to provide a California a waiver unless certain conditions are not met - unless California no longer needs to maintain an independent motor vehicle emissions program, unless the California program is not consistent with the Clean Air Act, or if the state's rulemaking is "arbitrary and capricious."

But while the state requested the waiver in December 2005, the EPA has left it pending without consideration, preventing California and the other 11 states from taking action to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

The EPA delay is supported by the nine major automakers in the AMA - BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Traffic on a street in San Francisco, California (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto)
Steven Douglas, AMA's director of environmental affairs, told an EPA hearing on the waiver May 22, "We believe that California's threat to sue EPA is not helpful to this process. EPA must deliberately and thoroughly approach the questions raised by the waiver application, especially when that application contains no evidence that the new standards will have any beneficial impact on the environmental conditions of concern.

"In short, EPA can and should take the appropriate time needed to properly analyze and respond to the waiver request," Douglas said.

"The Alliance member companies are committed to improving energy security and fuel economy, but piecemeal regulation at the state level is not the answer," said Douglas. "Moreover, California has not demonstrated a basis for this waiver request, and EPA should deny the waiver."

But Governor Schwarzenegger says it is crucial to act now to combat global warming. "The effects of climate change in California and all over the world are not theoretical science," the governor wrote in his letter to Johnson, "they are already happening. We cannot afford to go any longer without efforts to turn the tide."

Scientists agree that climate change will impact on every aspect of our daily lives, he wrote.

"Let me give you one alarming example: California's snowpack the primary source of drinking water for two-thirds of Californians will be reduced by up to 40 percent over the next few decades."

In letters sent on April 10, 2006 and October 24, 2006 to President George W. Bush, the governor reiterated the urgency of approving California's request to address global warming.

On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court issued ruling saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

The state air pollution control agencies back California's request for the waiver, which the head of their association says is "clearly in the public interest."

In testimony to the U.S. EPA's May 22 hearing on the waiver, William Becker, executive director the National Association of Clean Air Agencies said, the California rules "start the process of demonstrating that this country can address global warming and, at the same time, create jobs, enhance energy security, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save money for the consumer.

As established by Congress and interpreted by EPA over the past 30 years, Becker said, the EPA's role in granting a waiver to California on a particular motor vehicle emission rule is "narrow and deferential."

"EPA is not to substitute its judgment for that of CARB as to whether a standard is too technically challenging or too expensive," said Becker. "EPA may not base its decision on statutes other than the Clean Air Act, or other policy considerations."

The EPA must grant the waiver unless it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that the California Air Resources Board acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner when it determined that the addition of the Greenhouse Gas Regulations did not render California's mobile source program, considered as a whole, less protective than the federal program.

Since there is no federal program, said Becker, the EPA must grant California's waiver request.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.