Brown challenges feds, state Capitol on global warming

Legal News Line Dec. 2, 2008, 3:40pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown has stepped up his attacks on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its years of "shameful inaction" on global warming.

The attorney general has also let the city of Sacramento know it faces serious opposition as it prepares to pass a General Plan four years in the making.

Both battlegrounds are familiar territory for Brown, who has frequently clashed with the EPA during his tenure and has challenged several cities for enacting general plans that do not do enough to curb future global warming.

In a press release issued Monday, Brown said eight years of "foot-dragging" by the EPA must end, calling for the agency to use its authority under the federal Clean Air Act to combat climate change.

Brown joined attorneys general from 13 other states in issuing the challenge. California's Air Resources Board and four state environmental agencies, along with the cities of Minneapolis, Seattle, Salt Lake City and New York City also signed on to a letter detailing key principles the EPA should enforce.

Brown took the effort a step father by submitting his own letter of response to the EPA's 500-page advance notice of rulemaking for regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

"Global warming is perhaps the most serious environmental challenge we have ever faced," Brown wrote in his response. "There is overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth's temperature is warming, that humans are responsible for this increase, and that the harms from global warming will likely be severe and widespread."

Brown wants the EPA to act on a 2007 Supreme Court decision that requires the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. He also requested the EPA reverse its denial of California's preemption waiver for automobile regulations, which would allow the state to immediately enforce them.

Brown also requested the EPA adapt control for large polluting sources such as coal-fired power plants, cement plants and refineries.

Finally, Brown wants the EPA to adopt controls for cars, trucks, airplanes, ships and engines that "are responsible for more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.," the press release states.

Brown and the other attorneys general claim implementing the Clean Air Act would be the fastest way for the country to reduce global warming emissions.

On the local level, Brown challenged a draft proposal General Plan being considered by Sacramento city officials.

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Tuesday night and the final vote is scheduled for late January, according to published reports.

The plan prioritizes growth in existing neighborhoods and calls for the development of "satellite downtowns" in several parts of the state capitol - a city mostly known for its sprawling bedroom communities and network of busy freeways jammed with commuter traffic.

The city's long-range planner, Tom Pace, said the new plan would be a dramatic departure from sprawl into agricultural areas.

But the attorney general's office said the plan lacks enforceable provisions that would reduce driving and greenhouse gas emissions. Negotiations between Brown's office and City Hall has raised concern that the attorney general will challenge the plan in court if it is passed as it now stands.

Brown used similar threats to alter plans in the city of Stockton, which is about an hour south of Sacramento. Stockton's suburban growth is very similar to Sacramento's only a smaller scale. Brown said the revisions negotiated and approved in Stockton would be a good model for other cities.

As a recent concession to the attorney general, the city agreed to formally acknowledge that the anticipated growth would have a significant negative impact on climate change, which sets in motion a requirement to mitigate such impact.

"We're happy about that," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Trankley said in published reports.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460

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