California's ambitious plan to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions
of cars and trucks would be more than twice as effective in reducing
such gases by 2016 than the new federal fuel-economy law, the state
said as part of a new legal broadside against the US government this
Such factoids are among reams of statistical evidence offered by
California in a lawsuit filed Wednesday to try to reverse the
Environmental Protection Agency's rejection last month of the Golden
State's request to limit such tailpipe emissions. Fifteen other
states and five environmental groups quickly joined California's
Just how effective California's plan would be is important
because EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has specifically cited the
new fuel-economy law, which Congress approved last month, as a more
effective national approach. He made that assertion when rejecting
the state's request for a waiver from the Clean Air Act.
Aside from statistical evidence, California - whose plan could be
the template for states containing nearly half of America's populace
- is in a strong legal position to prevail in court, analysts say.
That's due in part to EPA precedent granting 53 similar waivers
already - and because the EPA appears to be relying on novel legal
interpretations for rejecting California, they say.
"I'll be interested to see how [Department of Justice lawyers
acting for the EPA] parse their way through this one. It won't be
easy," says Bruce Buckheit, an environmental consultant who directed
the EPA's air-enforcement division until 2003.
The EPA declined to comment on the lawsuits Wednesday, though it
reiterated comments Mr. Johnson made last month when he said the
Bush administration was "moving forward with a clear national
solution - not a confusing patchwork of state rules" to cut vehicle
emissions. The EPA also said the new national fuel-economy standard
"would be more effective than a partial state-by-state approach."
But according to California's newly unveiled analysis, the US
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) statute, which mandates a 35-
mile-per-gallon fleet average by 2020, would cut greenhouse gas
emissions by only 8 million metric tons - compared with 17 million
metric tons by 2016 for California's plan.
If a dozen other states that have already adopted California's
proposed standards joined the Golden State, the impact would reduce
greenhouse tailpipe emissions by nearly 60 million metric tons
nationwide by 2020 - about 60 percent more than would be
accomplished by CAFE, the California analysis showed.
EPA has yet to unveil its own technical analysis, which is
expected to support Johnson's contention that the CAFE law is a
superior mechanism. Also yet to be unveiled is EPA's legal argument.
Hints as to EPA's legal position may be found, however, in
Johnson's Dec. 19 letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denying
California's request. It was, he said, fundamentally different from
past waivers the EPA has granted. But legal analysts say EPA's basis
for denying California must go further and pass four legal tests
under the Clean Air Act, including:
* Prove that California's request was arbitrary and capricious. …