States Suing EPA Over Global Warming
Associated Press Writer
Officials of 18 states are taking the EPA back to court to try to force it to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that rebuked the Bush administration for inaction on global warming.
In a petition filed Wednesday, the plaintiffs said the 5-4 ruling in April 2007 required the Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from motor vehicles.
The EPA has instead done nothing, they said.
"The EPA's failure to act in the face of these incontestable dangers is a shameful dereliction of duty," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.
The petition asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to require the EPA to act within 60 days.
In last year's decision, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA has the authority to regulate emissions from new cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act, and said the reasons the EPA gave for declining to do so were insufficient.
EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said the Supreme Court required the agency to evaluate how it would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and other vehicles but set no deadline.
The EPA plans to include the evaluation in a broader look at how to best regulate all greenhouse gas emissions, not just those from vehicles, he said. Otherwise, a mash of laws and regulations could emerge rather than the "holistic" approach the administration favors.
"We want to set a good foundation to build a strong climate policy of potential regulation and laws we can work toward and actually see some success," Shradar said.
At a press conference Wednesday, David Brookbinder of the Sierra Club, one of 11 environmental groups involved in the suit, said the EPA has been talking about a "holistic" approach to climate change for years.
"In fact, they have done absolutely nothing except stand in the way of everybody's else's efforts," he said.
Last week's announcement by the EPA of the formal rule-making procedure signaled the agency wanted to put greenhouse gas regulation "on indefinite hold," said Jim Milkey, chief of environmental protection at Coakley's office, who argued the case before the Supreme Court.
"Every day that goes by without a solution, the window of opportunity to fix the problem closes a bit more," he 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 plaintiffs contend the EPA has already completed the work needed to start regulating carbon dioxide.
The Supreme Court ruling requires the agency to regulate carbon dioxide if it determines it's a danger to public health and welfare. Senior EPA employees have told House investigators about a tentative finding from early December that carbon dioxide posed a danger because of its impact on climate.
They also said a draft regulation had been circulated internally, then abandoned. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson has said the issue had to be re-examined because of tougher automobile mileage requirements enacted in December.
The plaintiffs want the finding about the dangers of carbon dioxide released within 60 days so the process for regulating vehicle emissions can begin. They said final rules wouldn't be ready until the next administration takes over.
In Washington, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming voted 12-0 Wednesday to issue a subpoena for all drafts of EPA documents on the issue.
"EPA has made no effort to accommodate the committee's request," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., the committee's chairman.
Shradar declined to say whether the agency would produce the documents the subpoena will request. "We will review this new petition and respond appropriately," he said.
Associated Press writer H. Josef Hebert in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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