California Effort to Regulate Emissions Hits Roadblock

California Effort to Regulate Emissions Hits Roadblock

A federal judge dealt a blow to California's quest to regulate tail pipe emissions last week by dismissing one of two lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA administrator Stephen Johnson sent the state a letter in December with his decision refusing a waiver that would allow California and 15 other states to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act. The same day, the federal government adopted legislation setting less stringent rules to boost fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

California responded in January with a lawsuit that was dismissed Friday in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because the EPA hadn't yet filed the decision in the Federal Registry. The EPA did that in March, prompting a second lawsuit in federal appeals court that is still pending.

"This is a procedural setback but it is important because the delay in allowing the states to enforce their laws restricting GHG emissions means that many tons of emissions will be released that otherwise could have been restricted if the EPA had done what it was required to do under the Clean Air Act," Attorney Dan Galpern, who is representing several environmental groups that joined the lawsuit, told GreenBiz.com.

The fedeal appeals court has not set a schedule indicating when the second lawsuit will be heard.

"Complicated litigation often takes a number of months sometimes, many months to complete so it's possible that this will not be completed until after a new administration takes office," Galpern said.

California had previously sought and secured some 50 EPA waivers to set stricter rules under the Clean Air Act because of its air quality issues.