California Sues U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

For two years, California has been waiting for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to make up its mind about vehicle emission rules. Now the state says "enough is enough." It's suing the EPA in federal court, claiming the agency is stalling state efforts to cut air pollution and "greenhouse gases." KPCC's Julie Small has more.

Julie Small: California law requires carmakers to start selling lower emission vehicles in the state by 2009. The new rules are supposed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent over the next decade. That's a stricter standard than the federal government's, so California had to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement the law. That was nearly two years ago... and there's still no answer from EPA. So Attorney General Jerry Brown is suing the EPA for unreasonable delay.

Attorney General Jerry Brown: Nothing could be more important for the state, for the country, for the world. This is almost a form of criminal neglect on the part of the EPA. They're scientists. They're not politicians. They know the truth, and yet they're not responding according to law, and that's why we're suing.

Small: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says there's no scientific reason for the EPA to delay further.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: We all know there's global warming. We all know that we have to reduce the greenhouse gases. We all know that we have to go in the direction of clean technology. And everyone is already on board. We just want to make sure the federal government gets it. That they ought to be on board too, and we need the waiver so we can regulate our own standards here.

Small: An EPA spokeswoman says the agency couldn't move faster because important issues had to be decided in a court case that was decided earlier this year. And she says the EPA administrator told Governor Schwarzenegger last June that a decision on the waiver would come by the end of the year. There is a chance that the EPA will deny the waiver if it decides that automakers are right when they claim that complying with California's stricter standards by 2009 is too difficult. And if the EPA denies California's waiver, what then?

Brown: Sue again.
Schwarzenegger: Exactly. Sue again and sue again, and sue again until we get it. (laughter)

Small: Auto manufacturers say they support tougher emission standards, but they also say that complying with multiple standards in multiple states will drive up the cost of cars. But a waiver for California would give the green light to 14 other states that filed for waivers for the same strict vehicle emissions standards. Those states are expected to join California's lawsuit against the EPA.