US & World

Feds Reject California's Strict Emissions Regulations

The United States Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday denied a waiver that would have allowed California to set its own rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes. KPCC's Molly Peterson has the story.

Molly Peterson: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Steven Johnson said he called Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to deliver the bad news. The Governor immediately said he'd appeal. Johnson said he decided not to permit California's strict rules for tailpipe emissions because a national approach is preferable to a confusing patchwork system he says would prevail if states got their way.

He leaned heavily on an energy bill the President just signed into law that increases the national fuel efficiency standard for the first time in 32 years. Johnson maintains that law would be more effective than California's plan. Ultimately, Johnson seemed to rest his legal authority for denying the request on the idea that global warming in California is not an unusually compelling problem meriting special treatment.

Steven Johnson: And unlike pollutants covered by other waivers, greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment in California, and elsewhere, regardless of where the emissions originate. California is not exclusive in facing this challenge.

Peterson: In response, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said she was deeply disappointed. Discouraged. She described the decision as disturbing, and the reasoning as disingenuous. Nichols said she could think of no more compelling need than global warming for California's comprehensive plan.

Mary Nichols: There is no patchwork of programs here. There is a California standard which has now been adopted by 17 other states, and then there is no standard, which is what the federal government has.

Peterson: California will likely challenge the waiver denial by arguing that the EPA offers a legally insufficient justification for its decision. State Attorney General Jerry Brown and other parties who've said they plan to head to court must wait until the waiver denial is official.