January 3, 2008

Environmental groups sue to challenge U.S. EPA ruling on California waiver

San Francisco, California – Five non-profit environmental groups have filed a lawsuit, challenging the December 19, 2007 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny California its request to implement a law limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles.

The Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense, International Center for Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club filed the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The State of California also filed its own legal challenge to the decision in the same court, and it is expected that fifteen states will immediately file a motion to intervene in support of California.

The California standards are scheduled to take effect in model-year 2009 and will secure a 30 per cent fleet-wide reduction by 2016. The state program would be the first binding program in the U.S. to strictly limit global warming pollution.

Until now, the EPA has consistently granted more than 50 such requests from California over the past 40 years for waivers under the Clean Air Act, which guarantees California’s right to adopt its own motor vehicle emission standards, so long as they are more protective than federal emission standards. Currently, there are no federal greenhouse gas emissions standards in place in the U.S. for any pollution source. The EPA refused the latest request, saying that its new unified federal standard of 35 mpg US (6.7 L/100 km) will deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in all fifty states, and that the California waiver is not required as greenhouse gases are “fundamentally global in nature,” unlike other air pollutants covered by prior California waiver requests, and did not meet criteria of “compelling and extraordinary conditions” as specified in the Clean Air Act.

States that have adopted or have committed to adopt the California standards include Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington; collectively, these states and California account for nearly half of the U.S. population and about 45 per cent of all new vehicle sales in the country. In December, Quebec announced that it would become the first Canadian province to adopt the California standards, beginning in 2010.

“The Administrator’s denial of California’s request relies on a flawed argument that the federal courts already have rejected,” said Jim Tripp, general counsel of Environmental Defense. “We’ve won before in the federal courts, so we expect to win again this time, too.”

California’s binding statewide cap in global warming pollution calls for cutting pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, with phases of further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles between 2016 and 2010.

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