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California Sues EPA To Force Action On Emissions Waiver Request

California has filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act on California’s tailpipe emissions waiver request.

Governor Schwarzenegger put the federal government on notice six months ago saying such a lawsuit would be filed if the U.S. EPA continued to delay action on California’s request for authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light trucks sold in the state and reiterated it’s position late last month.

The Governor’s office says that fourteen states will be announcing that they are joining California as interveners in the lawsuit, including: Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Under the Federal Clean Air Act, California says it has the right to set its own tougher-than-federal vehicle emission standards as long as it obtains a waiver from U.S. EPA.

“The EPA has delayed and ignored California’s right to impose stricter environmental standards,” Attorney General Brown told a news conference at the state capitol with Governor Schwarzenegger and California Air Resources Board chair, Mary Nichols. “We have waited two years and the Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. What is the EPA waiting for?”

The original request for a waiver of federal preemption of California’s Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards was made by the California Air Resources Boardon December 21, 2005. The waiver, allowing California to enact and enforce emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, was requested after the Air Resources Board developed regulations based on a 2002 California law.

That law required California to establish new standards for motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions beginning in model year 2009. The ARB-adopted regulations will phase in and ramp up over eight years to cut global warming emissions from new vehicles by nearly 30 percent by model year 2016.

In September, a court decision in Vermont confirmed that states do have the ability to adopt California’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards. Sixteen states comprising about 45 percent of all U.S. auto sales have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, California’s standards.

In the Vermont case, the judge dismissed the argument by automobile manufacturers that they could not comply with the California-based regulation because the technology was out of reach and that it would cost too much. The Vermont decision came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last April saying the U.S. EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

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