- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday for denying its first-in-the-nation greenhouse-gas limits on cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles, challenging the Bush administration’s conclusion that states have no business setting emission standards.

Other states are expected to join the lawsuit, which was anticipated after the EPA on Dec. 19 denied California a waiver it needs under the federal Clean Air Act. The lawsuit was filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson denied California the waiver, saying new federal regulations would be more effective than a patchwork of state laws. At least 16 other states had been expected to follow California’s lead and adopt the state’s tougher emission limits.

“There’s absolutely no justification for the administrator’s action,” state Attorney General Jerry Brown said yesterday. “It’s illegal. It’s unconscionable and a gross dereliction of duty.”

In announcing his decision last month, Mr. Johnson said the federal government was moving forward with a national solution and dismissed California’s arguments that it faced unique threats from climate change. Energy legislation signed by President Bush will raise fuel economy standards nationwide to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, he said.

California officials contend that their 2004 law is tougher than the new national standard. It would have required the auto industry to cut emissions by one-third in new vehicles by 2016 or reach an average of 36.8 mpg, setting a deadline four years earlier than the new federal law.

Over the next eight years, California’s standards would reduce carbon dioxide output from vehicles by 17.2 million metric tons, more than double the 7.7 million metric tons that will be achieved with the federal fuel-efficiency standards, according to an analysis released yesterday by California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols.

Twelve other states including Maryland have adopted the California emissions standards and Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah plan to adopt them.

“[EPA officials] are ignoring the will of millions of people who want their government to take action in the fight against global warming,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in a statement. “That’s why, at the very first legal opportunity, we’re suing to reverse the U.S. EPA’s wrong decision.”

Fifteen states plan to intervene on California’s behalf, including 13 of those that either adopted or are in the process of adopting the rules. Delaware and Illinois, which have not passed the standards, also are part of the lawsuit.

The EPA’s decision was a victory for automakers, which argued they would have been forced to reduce their selection of vehicles and raise prices in the states that adopted California’s standards.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. and six other automakers, favors the federal plan, spokesman Charles Territo said.

It will increase efficiency by 40 percent and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles by 30 percent, while giving automakers four years longer than the state law to adapt.

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