Calif. Leads Legal Challenge Against EPA

Calif. Leads Legal Challenge Against EPA

California led a coalition of states and non-profits that sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday over the agency's refusal to let the states set tougher auto-related greenhouse gas emissions regulations.

The EPA turned down California's application for a waiver to set its own tailpipe emissions rules under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set tougher air quality measures because of its history with smog. The EPA has granted California similar waivers more than 50 times.

"It is unconscionable that the federal government is keeping California and 19 other states from adopting these standards," said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "They are ignoring the will of millions of people who want their government to take action in the fight against global warming."

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson turned down the waiver Dec. 19, two years after California asked for it, arguing that the energy bill passed last month offered a more aggressive, comprehensive solution to auto-related emissions.

The bill mandates that automakers raise fuel economy to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The California bill, passed in 2002, would have upped fuel economy to 36.8 miles per gallon by 2016, beginning with the 2009 model year.

The lawsuit was filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. California believes it will prevail based on a series of recent court decisions confirming that states have the authority to set greenhouse gas emissions standards.

The Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense, International Center for Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club joined the states in the lawsuit.