Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

EPA Ruling Stalls Emissions Limits Reform in Florida; Crist Was Considering Adopting a Tough Law like California's until the Agency Shot It Down

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

EPA Ruling Stalls Emissions Limits Reform in Florida; Crist Was Considering Adopting a Tough Law like California's until the Agency Shot It Down

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

A key piece of Florida's plan to curb global warming is in jeopardy because of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision about regulating car emissions.

The ruling undercut an effort by governors in states accounting for nearly half the nation's population to force automobile manufacturers into making cleaner running cars.

Now California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he'll sue the EPA, and Gov. Charlie Crist is weighing whether to join him.

The fight is about EPA's rejection of a California law requiring new cars and pickup trucks to produce 30 percent fewer greenhouse gases by 2016, with some improvement starting in 2009 models. Many scientists blame those gases, mostly carbon dioxide, for rising temperatures around the planet that are changing the ecology of many places and gradually raising ocean levels.

Crist expressed disappointment with the decision, and struck a defiant tone in one newspaper interview. "We think states have rights," Crist told the St. Petersburg Times this month, "and if we want to, we should have the ability to take the lead on climate change."

In July, Crist ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to adopt California's standards once they take effect. It was one of a series of steps he said were necessary to protect the state and its hundreds of miles of waterfront.

A wrinkle in the Clean Air Act allows California - but not any other state -to enact car-emission standards that are tougher than the federal government's so long as the EPA approves.

Any state can copy California's rules once a waiver is issued, and 16 states said they intended to do that. Those states have about 45 percent of the new-car market. California had received dozens of waivers over four decades.

But last week, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said cutting car pollution required "a clear national solution - not a confusing patchwork of state rules," and he would not approve the new waiver.

Johnson said new fuel-efficiency goals that Congress passed this month have "set the bar high." But groups lobbying for more regulation say the California rules take full effect four years ahead of the national standards, and that acting fast is important for controlling global warming. …

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