SACRAMENTO — California will sue the Bush administration next week in a bid to force the Environmental Protection Agency to allow the state to issue greenhouse gas regulations for automobiles.
The lawsuit, which would make good on a threat made six months ago by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will demand that federal regulators give California a waiver under the U.S. Clean Air Act, as they've done dozens of times for similar air pollution controls.
"The governor has made his intention clear. The state will take action if the EPA doesn't act on the waiver," spokesman Aaron McLear said Friday. The suit is likely to be filed Wednesday, the first day California can legally file papers in U.S. District Court in Washington, he said.
A waiver would allow California to require automakers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 30% between 2009 and 2016 -- as mandated by a law the state passed in 2002. Identical measures have since been adopted by 14 other states, and a waiver for California would allow them to move ahead with implementation as well. The 15 states account for about 40% of all new cars sold in the United States, environmentalists said.
The suit is aimed at getting the attention of President Bush and Congress. "It is highly significant that the most trumpeted Republican governor in America feels it's absolutely necessary to sue the Bush administration in order to defend California's rights to protect the environment," said Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who will represent California in court.
California first requested the waiver in December 2005, and "we simply can't wait any longer," said David Doniger, a climate policy official with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's time to go to court and compel them to give an answer."
The federal EPA is still reviewing California's waiver request and is expected "to make a final determination by the end of the year," spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said this week.
Automakers oppose the waiver request as well as the regulations, and they are fighting the California law in a complaint before a federal judge in Fresno. In September, manufacturers lost a similar lawsuit in Vermont questioning the validity of the California law and an identical Vermont statute.