Lockyer rips EPA on Clean Air Act
State joins the legal action over agency's failure to regulate greenhouse gases
Jim Sanders, Bee Capitol Bureau, October 24, 2003
Claiming California's environment and public health are at risk, Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a legal challenge Thursday to force the Bush administration to regulate greenhouse gases that many scientists believe contribute to global warming.
Lockyer was joined by 11 other states, several major cities and numerous environmental organizations that filed separate but similar actions with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Their target is an Aug. 28 decision by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to deny petitions filed by environmental groups seeking regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The EPA said it lacked authority under the Clean Air Act.
Greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide and methane, received their name because they retain heat like glass panels. Their buildup can raise Earth's temperature and affect sea levels, water supplies, crop production and wildfires, research shows.
Lockyer said the EPA's decision not to regulate greenhouse gases poses "a very substantial risk to public health, to agriculture, the Sierra snowpack and other things that make California special and habitable."
Lockyer called the EPA's logic absurd and said its decision will contribute to "additional pollution of the planet, pollution of California and harmful health effects to people and the other species with which we cohabitate."
John Millett, an EPA spokesman, said Thursday that the agency had not yet read the legal challenges. He referred reporters to a prepared statement from Aug. 28 that explained the EPA's decision not to regulate greenhouse gases.
"Congress must provide us with clear legal authority before we can take regulatory action to address a fundamental issue such as climate change," EPA Assistant Administrator Jeff Holmstead said in the statement.
Holmstead said the Clean Air Act was never intended for that purpose and that regulating greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles could have "enormous economic, practical and societal impacts."
The Bush administration supports voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, additional climate change research, international cooperation and new investment in science, technology and institutions to address the issue, Holmstead said.
Lockyer accused the Bush administration of "bold lying" in touting environmentally friendly policies while it continues "to roll back the clock."
Environmental groups echoed his comments.
"The (EPA) decision is illegal, it defies common sense and it's bad for California," said Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups petitioning the appellate court.
Bill Corcoran, representing the Sierra Club, said the Bush administration "seems determined to replace the 'Environmental Protection' in EPA with 'Equivocation' and 'Procrastination.' "
Critics counter that regulating greenhouse gases could increase the price of vehicles, decrease supplies of natural gas and have little impact on the global environment because the EPA has no control over other nations.
The vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, about 82 percent, stem from the burning of fossil fuels to run vehicles and generate electricity, according to the EPA.
"To be effective, any policy response to global warming has got to allow time for the development of new technologies," said Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a trade association for shareholder-owned power companies.
Lockyer said the pending inauguration of Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger does not jeopardize his legal challenge.
"I don't think he'll want to reverse course, but the truth is, I don't care," Lockyer said. "We're going to go forward."
The EPA decision not to regulate greenhouse gases does not directly affect implementation of AB 1493, a state law approved last year to regulate such emissions from California vehicles, beginning with 2009 models, said Gennet Paauwe, a spokeswoman for the state Air Resources Board.