CA Can't Wait; Sues EPA Over Tailpipe Emissions Regs

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. All these states want to follow California's lead and implement new tailpipe legislation designed to curb greenhouse gases. Problem: automotive emission standards are a federal gig. So California applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a waiver that would allow them to, in effect, usurp Uncle Sam's powers in this regard (commercial considerations would continue to force all automakers to meet the California standard). The EPA said we'll think about it and get back to you by the end of the year. Seems that ain't good enough for California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. As the AP reports, the former Hummer H2 driver/promoter's Attorney General has filed suit against the feds yesterday to force a right now dammit decision. The battle lines are drawn. Automakers are, obviously, against state standards; they're appealing a Vermont decision that allows The Green Mountain State to use California emissions legislation. For their part, the EPA says California "is more interested in getting a good headline than allowing us to make a good decision." They're also considering legislation that's tougher than CA standards. Meanwhile, Ahnold is determined to win this battle. If the lawsuit is unsuccessful and the EPA says go fish, "We'll sue again, sue again and sue again until we get it."

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
4 of 19 comments
  • Mike_i_n_mich Mike_i_n_mich on Nov 09, 2007

    If Arnold wants to lower CO2 in California he can raise the tax on gasoline. This will not only affect the CO2 efficiency of new cars, which are already available by the way, but will also cause the good citizens to implement an infinite number of other CO2 reducing measures. The end, CO2 reduction, would be achieved quicker and much more efficiently. Quicker because new car legislation and fleet replacemnt will take on the order of 10 years. Efficienctly, because people will reduce CO2 via gasoline by buying smaller more efficient cars already available, combining trips, carpooling, walking, driving slower, and so on. Why not you ask? Simple, a direct tax would reflect poorly on the government when people have to pay the true price of CO2 reduction. It is much better to put the blame on the boogy men in Detroit who we all know have 100 MPG carburetors and 1000 mile batteries they are hiding from the public in order to protect their friends the oil companies.

  • NBK-Boston NBK-Boston on Nov 09, 2007

    While Drew summarizes the legal background quite well, there is still a fundamental weakness in California's current position. Essentially, CA was granted special permission to formulate its own pollution rules in the 1970 Act because it was working on statewide pollution rules even before the federal government became interested in such things. The reason it was working on such rules was that southern California was suffering greatly from automobile-induced smog, in a manner almost unique among American cities at the time. Going forward, it was recognized that since California was particularly vulnerable to air pollution, it was sensible to give them the power to continue to set tight standards while the federal government would set minimum standards for the rest of the country. Permission was then granted to other states with significant urban air quality problems to adopt the California standards. The problem is that CO2 is not location sensitive. Tailpipe emissions of things like NOx and VOCs create unique smog problems in some places, but tend not to cause such significant problems in other places. But CO2 just mixes into the global atmosphere, and whatever effect it causes is not changed by whether it was emitted in California or Georgia. It is thus rational to have regionally different standards for the first set of pollutants, but irrational for CO2. It would be easy to argue that the intent of Congress in passing the California waiver provisions was to allow local authorities to tackle uniquely local problems. It would be difficult to assume that Congress meant to allow California to strike out on its own to attack a national or global problems, when the federal government has reached its own policy conclusions on the subject. mike_i_n_mich is right. If California wants to take up the "progressive man's burden" and go the extra mile to limit CO2 emissions, it should announce and implement a massive increase in gas taxes (done in stages, of course, to ease the transition). People will then respond in the most efficient manner to this stimulus: They will drive equal miles but in more efficient cars, they will keep their HUMMERs but drive half as much, or keep their HUMMERs, drive just as much, and forgo more expensive organic produce. Whatever. My point is, it's pretty clear what Congress intended with the California waiver provisions, and however much I am sympathetic to environmental concerns, openly abusing them annoys me.

  • Benders Benders on Nov 10, 2007

    You know a great way to cut CO2 emissions? Get rid of all those pollution standards for other stuff like NOX and CO. Seriously. Increase your temperature and pressure in the combustion chamber improves your efficiency but increases the production of harmful byproducts. They already make California only cars, Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles with pollution reducing equipment that costs ~$5k but is paid for by the rest of us who buy the cars outside of California. If the automakers had the money, they could stop selling in states that demand decreased CO2 output until consumers got tired of not being able to buy cars. Hmm, makes me wonder if they could withhold trucks from the California market to force their hand. Trucks are vital to business and industry (who would make more noise than consumers) and are a shrinking market. Too bad they'd lose too much money doing that and have too many trucks as it is.

  • Stuntnun Stuntnun on Nov 11, 2007

    can i sue California for spewing all that co2 into the environment from the wild fires?(and Nancy peloci?)