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"Federal Judge Upholds Law on Emissions in California" (NYT)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

"A federal judge in Sacramento on Wednesday upheld a California law regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, another in a string of legal defeats for the auto industry this year.


The ruling, by Judge Anthony W. Ishii of United States District Court, affirms a 2002 California law that would effectively force automakers to raise the average fuel economy of fleets by about 30 percent by 2016. A bill pending in Congress demands a 40 percent mileage increase by 2020." (published December 13, 2007)


This is a big win for California and those who want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions everywhere.

Edited by stins - Wed, 19 Dec 2007 20:37:02 GMT
post #2 of 7

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today stunned the environmental community and state officials nationwide by denying California’s request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act, which would have enabled California and 17 other states to impose stricter-than-federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles....


EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said he rejected California’s request for a waiver because the energy bill signed into law by President Bush today provides “a national solution” that is better than a “confusing patchwork of state rules to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles.”  A statement released by the EPA explained: "California’s current waiver request is distinct from all prior requests. Previous waiver petitions covered pollutants that predominantly impacted local and regional air quality. Greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature, which is unlike the other air pollutants covered by prior California waivers requests. These gases contribute to the challenge of global climate change affecting every state in the union. Therefore, according to the criteria in section 209 of the Clean Air Act, EPA did not find that separate California standards are needed to 'meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.'"

Johnson’s rationale doesn’t really hold up, however, for three key reasons:

  1. the new energy law does not regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions; it only requires automakers to meet a new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020;
  2. the California Clean Cars program would have started in 2009—more than a decade before the national fuel economy standard will take effect—reducing vehicle greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2016; and
  3. tackling any global problem always requires a "think globally, act locally" approach, so denying California's regulate vehicle emissions within the state's jurisdiction because they can't effect a global solution doesn't really make sense." (Larry West's Blog, 19 December 2007)


Pretty unbelievable given the win in Sacramento.  It's ridiculous that Johnson says basically California can't make an impact - first of all, it's a big state; and second of all, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah were all looking to follow California's lead.



post #3 of 7

"California plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for denying its first-in-the-nation greenhouse gas limits on cars, trucks and SUVs.  The lawsuit, to be filed Wednesday in San Francisco, challenges the Bush administration's conclusion that states have no business setting emission standards. Other states are expected to join the lawsuit, which was anticipated after the EPA denied California's request Dec. 19." (California to sue EPA over greenhouse gas regulations,, 2 January 2008)


Looks like California's really going to do it. 

post #4 of 7

And it looks like five nonprofits also joined the state of California in the suit:


"Five nonprofit groups -- the Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense, the International Center for Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Counsel, and the Sierra Club -- also filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, the same court in which California filed its legal challenge." (16 states sue US over global warming rule, OneWorld US, 3 January 2008)

post #5 of 7

From Gristmill's David Roberts:



Reporting in the L.A. Times, Janet Wilson confirms (as Juliet Eilperin did earlier) that EPA staff unanimously recommended granting California's waiver, and that they were shut out of the final decision:

"[EPA staff] advised him to either grant the waiver outright or give California a temporary one for three years.

Instead, three sources said, Johnson cut off any consultation with his technical staff for the last month and made his decision before having them write the formal, legal justification for it.

"It's very highly unusual," said one source with close ties to the agency.

Normally the technical staff would be part of the final decision-making process, including briefing the administrator and writing the formal legal document before his decision. In this case, the briefings were done, but the formal finding has yet to be drafted."

EPA staff also suspect Cheney is behind this (and really, at this point isn't that the obvious default assumption?):


"Some staff members believe Johnson made his decision after auto executives met with Vice President Dick Cheney and after a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the White House outlining why neither California nor the EPA should be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases, among other reasons. The Detroit News reported Wednesday that chief executives of Ford and Chrysler met with Cheney last month.

"Clearly the White House said, 'We're going to get EPA out of the way and get California out of the way. If you give us this energy bill, then we're done, the deal is done,'" said one staffer." "

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Here's a great big thumbs down to Stephen L. Johnson.  And here's a solid rebuttle from several governors:


January 23, 2008

The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Mr. Administrator:
We are writing to express our disappointment in your recent decision to block states' rights to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

Your decision to deny California its waiver ignores federal law and the reality of climate change. It also ignores the clear intent of Congress in the Clean Air Act to enable California to adopt regulations to control emissions from new motor vehicles that are at least as stringent as those of the federal government, and to allow other states to follow.

The authority of states to address greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles has been clearly and unequivocally supported by recent judicial decisions. In April, the United States Supreme Court ruled in an historic opinion that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles are pollutants to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. In September, a federal court decision in Vermont confirmed that states have the authority to adopt California's motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards. In December, a federal court in California issued a ruling that confirms California's authority to set motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards.

We find your reasons for denying California's request for a waiver of federal preemption unsound.

New Federal Fuel Economy Standards are No Excuse for Denying Waiver

You said the federal Energy Bill is the answer to combating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. The U.S. EPA acted inappropriately in basing its waiver decision on a comparison of California's emissions standards to possible co-benefits of the recently enacted federal Energy Bill, especially with no support for that comparison.

While more stringent CAFE standards are well and good, the most effective strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles is the comprehensive standard that has been adopted by 13 states and is being considered by another seven. California's standard regulates four greenhouse gases directly. The federal government, as required by the new Energy Bill, will improve fuel economy standards. Fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards are not the same. Although both are laudable, they achieve distinctly different goals.

California's Standard is One of Only Two Possible Standards

You denounced a confusing patchwork of state rules in your denial statement. There is no patchwork. Rather, there continues to be the two-car system that Congress intended -- California cars and federal cars. Currently there is only one greenhouse gas emissions standard -- a California standard.

The federal government has not established a greenhouse gas emissions standard for vehicles. If they do, manufacturers will continue to produce, at most, two vehicle types -- one certified for sale in California and the states that have adopted California's standard, and one federally-certified for the remainder of the states. That is why we need to adopt the most effective solution -- California's -- which is the only greenhouse gas standard in effect.

California's Standards are Almost Twice as Effective

You said federal CAFE standards are much more effective than California's standard. Although this is not a proper basis for your decision, according to an analysis by the California Air Resources Board, if all 19 states follow California, the greenhouse gas emissions reduction benefits above and beyond the possible co-benefits under the Energy Bill are expected to be 315 million metric tons by the year 2020, an 85% increase in emission reduction benefits.

This Global Problem Requires the Most Effective Solution

You said this waiver request is distinct from prior waiver requests because, unlike traditional pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions are a global problem. We agree that this is a global problem, but the consequences are a local problem. Higher temperatures will cause a number of troubling local conditions, including worsening smog and soot pollution in cities that already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation. That is why we need to adopt the most effective solution, which is ours.

Climate Change Compels Us to Act Now

You said that the circumstances for granting the waiver are not compelling. Each day, scientists better understand the impacts of climate change, and those impacts are certain to be environmentally and economically damaging. All states face negative impacts to their economies, natural resources and shorelines. California is particularly vulnerable because of its reliance on snow pack as the most significant source of water storage, its 1,200 miles of coastline, its agricultural industry that leads the U.S. in production of fruits and vegetables, and its already-challenging air quality issues. This is more than sufficient to warrant California's claim of "compelling and extraordinary conditions" and to exercise its right to lead a state-based effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, and for other states to follow.

In conclusion, the U.S. EPA action to prevent California, and thereby 19 other states, from implementing its motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions reduction regulations is without merit. The federal government, with this unprecedented action, is ignoring the rights of states, as well as the will of more than one hundred million people across the U.S. We stand by our commitment to bring cleaner cars to our states.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California
Governor Janet Napolitano, Arizona
Governor M. Jodi Rell, Connecticut
Governor John Baldacci, Maine
Governor Martin O'Malley, , Maryland
Governor Deval Patrick, Massachusetts
Governor Bill Richardson, New Mexico
Governor Eliot Spitzer, New York
Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski, Oregon
Governor Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania
Governor Donald L. Carcieri, Rhode Island
Governor James H. Douglas, Vermont
Governor Christine O. Gregoire, Washington
Governor Jon S. Corzine, New Jersey

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Updates on the whole Stephen Johnson/California waiver extravaganza.  From David Roberts at Grist:


Lordy. Not only did Stephen Johnson's staff at the EPA oppose his decision to deny California's waiver, but they warned him that if he denied the waiver he might have to resign in shame.


Boxer's EPW committee has gotten ahold of some internal memos and briefings from the EPA. To pick just one example, check out this extraordinary list of talking points from staff at the Office of Transportation and Air Quality:

• I know you are under extraordinary pressure to make the California waiver decision, and I don't mean to add to it

• But this likely to be among the two biggest decisions you get to make in the job (along with the greenhouse gas rule you are working on)

• The eyes of the world are on you and the marvelous institution you and I have had the privilege of leading; clearly the stakes are huge, especially with respect to future climate work

• I understand the history and the legal standards for this decision-I made a number of them myself while I was there, including the waiver for the LEV program, which these standards would be a part of.

• From what I have read and the people I have talked to, it is obvious to me that there is no legal or technical justification for denying this. The law is very specific about what you are allowed to consider, and even if you adopt the alternative interpretations that have been suggested by the automakers, you still wind up in the same place

• But I think there must be a win-win here, and you should find it and seize it ... for the sake of the environment and the integrity of the agency

• Word is out about the option to grant the waiver for the first three years and then defer the subsequent years. I don't have the details, but this sounds like the seed for a "grand bargain", and would put and the agency in the driver's seat to craft a national solution: something that my automaker contacts and California both say they want.

You have to find a way to get this done. If you cannot, you will face a pretty big personal decision about whether you are able to stay in the job under those circumstances. This is a choice only you can make, but I ask you to think about the history and the future of the agency in making it. If you are asked to deny this waiver, I fear the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged.

(my emphasis)


The ability of this administration to make hacks of people and permanently soil their reputations never ceases to astonish.


[Source: Gristmill]

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