EPA announcement sets stage for California emissions standards

Legal News Line Apr. 17, 2009, 2:52pm

Jerry Brown (D)

John Kroger (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earned the praise of California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a fierce critic of the agency under former President George W. Bush.

Brown praised the EPA announcement Friday that greenhouse gasses pose a public threat reversing the positions of the EPA under the Bush administration.

The announcement clears the way for new, stricter regulations of cars, factories and plants, according to published reports. The proposed EPA finding, which triggers a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat.

Brown said the announcement was the first of many steps needed to begin to quell the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on global warming.

"After years of inexcusable neglect under the Bush Administration, the EPA has taken the first concrete step toward curbing global warming by making a preliminary determination that greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare." Brown said. "This proposed endangerment determination opens the door to the first serious national effort to reduce greenhouse gases."

This proposed determination stems from the Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which required EPA to determine whether the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare."

California was the lead plaintiff in the case.

The Bush administration refused to comply with the court's order to make such a determination, according to a press release issued by the attorney general's office.

Other attorneys general also praised the EPA's announcement, including neighboring Oregon, another Western state that has pushed for stringent emissions standards above those required by the federal government.

"This is a great victory for the rule of law and for science," Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said.

Earlier this month, Brown sent a letter to the EPA, backed by Kroger and more than a dozen other states, urging the Obama administration to overturn the Bush administration's efforts to keep California from enforcing its automobile greenhouse gas emissions law.

Brown and the other state attorneys general asked that the EPA grant a waiver under the Clean Air Act to allow the state to enforce its laws, which exceed the federal standards.

In 2002 California enacted legislation requiring a 30 percent reduction in automobile greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The EPA must grant a waiver to allow the state to enforce the law.

The EPA under Bush denied California's request for the waiver in 2007. The EPA contended that the state did not need the regulation to address "compelling and extraordinary conditions."

Further, Brown has urged the EPA to regulate emissions from power plants and other polluting sources, according to a press release issued by the attorney general's office on Friday.

Brown sued the Department of Energy for failing to require updated efficiency standards for appliances, and sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for allowing federal projects to be gain approval without weighing the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on endangered species.

The EPA's announcement puts Congress on notice that the administration is looking for backing on legislation that would curb emissions rather than allowing the EPA to set all standards, according to published reports.

The Sierra Club issued a statement saying, "There is no longer a question of it or even when the U.S. will act on global warming: We are doing so now."

Earlier this week in anticipation of the EPA's announcement, the Investor's Business Daily reported that the EPA decision was expected to be a "game-changer" with far reaching effects on everything from businesses to bankers to lawmakers.

"It is fair to say that this will be the largest step the federal government will have taken to date on climate. It will be the first step toward what we expect will be mandatory restrictions in U.S. global warming pollution," Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director for the National Wildlife Federation told the newspaper.

Spokespeople for the automakers association have said that the federal government needed to bring "clarity" to emissions standards that would be consistent in all 50 states. Never mentioning California directly, the automakers association has resisted the states efforts to increase standards far beyond the federal standards for emissions.

But Brown has argued that the state is more directly impacted by auto emissions, and should be allowed to enforce strict standards passed by the legislature. Because the state has 32 million registered vehicles, twice the number of any other state, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions does create a compelling need for the increased regulatory standards, Brown has claimed.

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Organizations in this Story

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

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