Thursday, January 03, 2008

Maine joins suit over auto emissions

Portland Press Herald

At issue is the EPA's denial of a waiver to allow states to impose tough standards on greenhouse gases.

— From staff and news services January 3, 2008

Maine joined California and 15 other states and sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for preventing
the states from setting greenhouse gas limits for vehicles.

The states, together with five environmental groups, are asking
a federal appeals court in San Francisco to overturn the EPA's
denial of a waiver that would have cleared the way for California
to impose the nation's first emissions limits.

At least 16 other states planned to follow California's lead and
impose the standards on at least 45 percent of the U.S. auto

The EPA denied California's waiver on Dec. 19, arguing that it
would result in a patchwork of state regulations. State officials
and environmentalists accused the Bush administration of
blocking progress against global warming.

"The Bush administration has ignored the problem of climate
change, now they are blocking the states from taking action,"
Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said in a written statement.
"The decision by the EPA to deny California's waiver request
leaves states no choice but to file this appeal."

Maine adopted California's standards in 2005, with the aim of
reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from cars by 30
percent by 2016. If the EPA had granted a waiver, the law would
have taken effect with the 2009 model year. Courts around the
country had rejected legal challenges by the U.S. automakers.

"There's absolutely no justification for the administrator's
action," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said Wednesday.
"It's unconscionable and a gross dereliction of duty."

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said last month that the
federal government was moving forward with a national solution
and dismissed California's arguments that it faces unique threats
from climate change.

Legislation signed by President Bush will raise fuel economy
standards nationwide to an average of 35 mpg by 2020, Johnson
said, which is far more effective than a patchwork of state

In an e-mailed statement Wednesday, EPA spokesman Jonathan
Shradar said federal estimates show that California's law would
achieve reductions to only 33.8 mpg.

California officials say their 2004 law is tougher. They say it
would require the auto industry to cut emissions by one-third in
new vehicles by 2016 or reach an average of 36.8 mpg.

Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New
Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont
and Washington have adopted the California emissions

The governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah have said
they also plan to adopt them, and the rules are under
consideration in Iowa.

Delaware and Illinois, which have not passed the standards, are
part of the lawsuit.

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

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

It was the first time the EPA fully denied California a waiver
under the Clean Air Act since Congress gave the state the right
to such waivers in 1967.

The denial angered some members of Congress, who claim the
agency ignored the legal requirements in the Clean Air Act.

Critics charged the administration with overruling its own
experts and making a political deal with the auto industry.

Last week, the EPA said it would turn over all documents about
its denial of California's waiver to congressional committees.

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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