Filed today in Washington, the precedent setting lawsuit charges the federal agency with an unreasonable delay in reaching a decision on a California law known as the Pavley bill, which mandates a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle emissions by 2016, starting with model year 2009.
"California has a long and proud history of leadership in reducing pollution and fighting for clean air for our residents. And we are upholding that tradition today by filing a lawsuit against the federal government that takes a big step forward in the battle against global warming," Governor Schwarzenegger told a news conference at the state capitol.
From left: Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announce their lawsuit against the U.S. EPA. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
"California is ready to implement the nation's cleanest standards for vehicle emissions, but we cannot do that until the federal government grants a waiver allowing us to enforce those standards," he said.
"Despite the mounting dangers of global warming, the EPA has delayed and ignored California's right to impose stricter environmental standards," said Brown. "We have waited two years and the Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. What is the EPA waiting for?"
Under the Clean Air Act pased in 1963, California can adopt environmental standards that are stricter than federal rules, if the state obtains a waiver from the U.S. 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. Later today, 14 other states are expected to support California as interveners in the lawsuit.
In the Act's 40 year history, the EPA has granted 50 waivers for innovations like catalytic converters, exhaust emission standards, and leaded gasoline regulations.
In 2002, California passed AB 1493, the Pavley bill, named for author then State Senator Fran Pavley. Forced out of office because of the state's term limits law, Pavley is a senior fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Santa Monica. She is running again for a seat in the California Senate in the 2008 election.
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.
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.
The EPA has said it needs more time to review the facts. The state claims the federal agency has had plenty of time. The California Air Resources Board submitted a detailed 251 page assessment in 2005 and the U.S. Supreme Court in April 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.
There are 32 million registered vehicles in California, twice the number of any other state. Cars generate 20 percent of all human-made carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and at least 30 percent of such emissions in California.
If California's landmark global warming law - and the corresponding 30 percent improvement in emissions standards - were adopted nationally, the United States could cut annual oil imports by $100 billion dollars, at $50 per barrel, the state has said. Today's oil prices are much higher, fluctuating between $95 and $98 per barrel.
Last year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the 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, state officials say California must reduce emissions by 174 million metric tons. If California's motor vehicle emissions law is implemented, it will account for 17 percent 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. Last year Southern California experienced its driest year since recordkeeping began 130 years ago.
California Senator Barbara Boxer said today, "It saddens me that California has to take the federal government to court to protect our citizens from global warming, but I am with my state every step of the way. It is past time for the Bush Administration to get out of the way so California can continue its efforts to combat global warming."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.