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States sue over emissions curbs

The EPA has failed to act to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles despite a Supreme Court ruling.

April 03, 2008|Tom Pelton | Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Officials from more than a dozen states sued the Bush administration Wednesday, accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of "foot-dragging" to avoid regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

A year ago, the states won a legal challenge in which the Supreme Court agreed that the EPA had the authority to limit carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming.

But the federal agency has not acted on the court's ruling, instead saying it needs a lengthy period to collect public input before it proposes regulations.

Meanwhile, the EPA on Dec. 17 blocked the implementation of laws by California, Maryland, Massachusetts and other states to limit greenhouse gases from cars, with the agency saying climate change is a federal issue.

"The EPA's failure to act in the face of these incontestable dangers is a shameful dereliction of duty," said Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley, the lead plaintiff.

The petition asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to require the EPA to act within 60 days.

Jonathan Shradar, a spokesman for the EPA, said his agency would notify the public later this spring of an "advance notice of proposed rule making" on greenhouse gases.

That's a process that allows up to 90 days of public comment before the agency sets a timetable for moving forward. The result probably will mean continued deliberation beyond President Bush's term.

"EPA will continue its work [on the public hearing process] taking into account all sources of [greenhouse gas] emission," he said in an e-mail.

Maryland Atty. Gen. Douglas F. Gansler said the EPA received all the input it needed April 2, 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal agency could regulate greenhouse gases.

"I do think the culture of the EPA under the Bush administration has been to do everything they can to delay actually protecting the environment -- which makes the EPA something of an oxymoron, at least in name," Gansler said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the EPA "has failed to lead, it has failed to follow the states' lead, and we are prepared to force it out of the way in order to protect the environment."

The plaintiffs in the latest court action include Coakley and attorneys general from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, plus representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the cities of New York and Baltimore, and several environmental organizations.

The Supreme Court decision set no timeline.

Energy industry lobbyist Scott Segal said a thorough review of scientific data was a good idea because the regulations could raise prices of products for consumers.

"A number of studies have highlighted the dramatic costs of acting too harshly and quickly -- especially on struggling middle-class families, those living in poverty or our seniors living on fixed incomes," Segal said in a statement.

An environmental advocacy group, Friends of the Earth, called for EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to resign based on his "repeated rejections of EPA scientists' advice and continued inaction on global warming a full year after the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision."

The Supreme Court rejected the EPA's claim that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant that the federal agency must regulate under the more than 30-year-old Clean Air Act. The court said the EPA must decide whether this pollution was endangering public health and, if it was, the agency must issue regulations to control it.

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