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California sues EPA over greenhouse gas regulations; 15 other states expected to join its suit
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    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday for denying its first-in-the-nation greenhouse gas limits on cars, trucks and SUVs, challenging the Bush administration’s conclusion that states have no business setting emission standards.
    Other states are expected to join the lawsuit, which was anticipated after the EPA on Dec. 19 denied California’s request for a waiver, required under the federal Clean Air Act. The lawsuit was filed in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
    EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson denied the waiver, saying it would result in a patchwork of state regulations. At least 16 other states had been expected to follow California’s lead and adopt the state’s tougher emission limits.
    ‘‘There’s absolutely no justification for the administrator’s action,’’ Attorney General Jerry Brown told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. ‘‘It’s illegal. It’s unconscionable and a gross dereliction of duty.’’
    Johnson said last month that the federal government was moving forward with a national solution and dismissed California’s arguments that it faced unique threats from climate change.
    Johnson said energy legislation signed by President Bush will raise fuel economy standards nationwide to an average of 35 mpg by 2020. He said that was a far more effective approach to reducing greenhouse gases than a patchwork of state regulations.
    California officials have said their 2004 law was tougher. It would have required the auto industry to cut emissions by one-third in new vehicles by 2016 or reach an average of 36.8 mpg.
    Twelve other states — Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — have adopted the California emissions standards.
    The governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah have said they also plan to adopt them. The rules also are under consideration in Iowa.
    ‘‘(EPA officials) are ignoring the will of millions of people who want their government to take action in the fight against global warming,’’ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. ‘‘That’s why, at the very first legal opportunity, we’re suing to reverse the U.S. EPA’s wrong decision.’’
    Fifteen states plan to intervene on California’s behalf, including 13 of those that have either adopted or are in the process of adopting the rules. Delaware and Illinois, which have not passed the standards, also are part of the lawsuit.
    ‘‘Today, there is simply no environmental issue more compelling — or extraordinary — than the increasing threat of climate change,’’ New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. ‘‘Greenhouse gas emission standards for cars are a logical and necessary step to effectively combat global warming.’’
    The EPA’s decision was a victory for automakers, which had argued that they would have been forced to reduce their selection of vehicles and raise prices in the states that adopted California’s standards.
    It was the first time the EPA had fully denied California a waiver under the Clean Air Act since Congress gave the state the right to obtain such waivers in 1967.
    Brown said the EPA has attempted to kill a legal, viable policy tailored to help California deal with projected consequences of global climate change. Rising seas could erode the state’s coastline and top its levees, while warming temperatures are expected to reduce the Sierra snowpack, leading to a potential water crisis.
    ‘‘To curb the innovative efforts of California and other states makes no sense,’’ Brown said.
    A call seeking comment from the EPA was not immediately returned Wednesday.
    The denial angered members of Congress, including California Democrats who sit on key committees. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Henry Waxman, who chair the committees that oversee the EPA, said the agency ignored the legal requirements in the Clean Air Act.
    Last week, the EPA said it would turn over all documents about its denial of the California waiver request to congressional committees that have promised hearings into the decision. That includes the agency’s communications with the White House.
    The auto regulations are a major part of California’s global warming law, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases statewide by 25 percent — to 1990 levels — by 2020. Auto emissions account for about 17 percent of the state’s proposed reductions.
    California Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols said the state expects to obtain its waiver by appeal and has no plans to shift is greehouse-gas reduction strategy.

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