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California Sues EPA Over Global Warming
11-09-2007, 01:32 AM,
California Sues EPA Over Global Warming
Some environmental saber rattling for your reading displeasure.

California Sues EPA Over Global Warming

Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- California and 14 other states are demanding urgent action on global warming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, arguing in a lawsuit filed Thursday that the environmental and health risks are mounting every day that the Bush administration delays action.

But a quick remedy to the problem may not be in the cards, even if the EPA makes a decision about California's plan to give its drivers cleaner cars that emit fewer greenhouse gases.

A tangle of lawsuits is expected to follow, no matter what the EPA's decision is, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged Thursday.

"We sue again, and sue again and sue again until we get it," he said at a Capitol news conference.

The lawsuit stems from a feud between states that want to take aggressive action to address one of the leading causes of global warming and the Bush administration's hands-off approach to regulation.

In California, scientists predict global warming will reduce the mountain snowpacks - the state's largest source of water - while rising sea levels will submerge coastal homes and erode beaches. Warmer temperatures will wither crops that can't survive in longer, hotter summers. Wildfires will char forests.

About a third of the state's greenhouse gas emissions come from cars, pickups and sport utility vehicles, a figure that will only grow if they are not regulated and the nation's largest state continues to attract millions more new residents.

Without its auto regulations, California will have a hard time meeting its ambitious goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols said.

"We will have to find emission reductions elsewhere, from our industries and from our cities and our people. And we can't do that," Nichols said. "We need this technology, we know it's there."

California's lawsuit against the EPA, filed in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., seeks to force a decision about whether California can enact the country's first emission standards for cars and light trucks.

The state first sought permission nearly two years ago after it adopted an anti-pollution law to control emissions from cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles. More than a dozen other states have followed California's lead.

EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said last summer that he would decide by the end of this year. His spokeswoman, Jennifer Wood, said Thursday that it was "unfortunate that California is more interested in getting a good headline than allowing us to make a good decision."

Meanwhile, automakers are trying to block the standards, saying that a patchwork of regulations that vary from state to state complicates their manufacturing and increases costs. California also is defending its regulation in numerous lawsuits in both state and federal courts.

Automakers also argue that controlling carbon dioxide levels creates a fuel-economy standard, which only the federal government can set.

Wade Newton, a spokesman for The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said it was premature to say whether his organization would sue the EPA if it approves California's waiver. However, he acknowledged the debate will likely continue.

California officials say automakers can improve technology, use alternative fuels, improve vehicle air conditioners and trade clean-air credits among manufacturers to meet the tougher emission standards.

While the federal government sets national air pollution rules, California has unique status under the Clean Air Act to enact its own regulations if it gets approval from the EPA.

Other states can follow the federal rules or California's standards if they are tougher. The EPA has granted about 50 such waivers over the past 40 years, for the use of catalytic converters, leaded gasoline regulations and other measures.

Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington joined California's lawsuit against the federal government.

"We are filling the void left by the Bush administration's refusal to protect the environment," New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The governors of Colorado, Florida and Utah also have said their states would adopt the standard.

The EPA initially refused to act on California's application, saying the agency did not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that it does have that authority.

As a result, the EPA is now developing greenhouse gas regulations scheduled to be released by the end of the year. Environmental groups say those rules will likely be weaker than the California proposal.

State officials say they need the matter resolved soon because the auto-emissions law applies to vehicles starting in the 2009 model year, which companies start marketing as early as January.

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