California Sues EPA Over Waiver Denial 14

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 03 Jan 2008 14:20:00 GMT

As California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced upon the EPA denial of the California waiver request to regulate tailpipe greenhouse emissions, California has filed a petition for review of the decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Fifteen other states – Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – joined the suit.

Warming Law notes:

One interesting legal wrinkle is that the case has been filed in the 9th Circuit—not in the DC Circuit, as many (including ourselves) had suggested. In the wake of EPA’s decision, LA Times writer David Savage presciently noted that the DC Circuit might not be naturally inclined to California’s arguments. While the state’s case for a waiver was undoubtedly strengthened by the Supreme Court’s decision on standing in Massachusetts v EPA, it was the DC Circuit that had previously sided with the EPA’s position (this rationale is strongly mirrored in the EPA’s current claim that global warming doesn’t pose a unique threat to California). The state’s arguments based on statutory text and the weight of Supreme Court precedent would probably have held up in any court, but its tactical filing move certainly seems, on the surface, to bolster its odds.

"EPA Likely to Lose Suit" 6

Posted by Warming Law Thu, 20 Dec 2007 21:53:00 GMT

(Cross-posted from Warming Law, which focuses on covering and analyzing the fight against global warming from a legal perspective.)

by Tim Dowling

“EPA Likely To Lose Suit.”

So said EPA, or at least EPA’s legal staff, when it briefed Administrator Johnson on the legal ramifications of a waiver denial. The quoted language comes from a powerpoint slide used during that briefing. As the Washington Post reports, Johnson’s waiver denial flew in the face of “the unanimous recommendation of the agency’s legal and technical staff.”

California’s legal challenge to the waiver denial will be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and one large reason for believing EPA will lose can be found in the D.C. Circuit’s opinions in previous waiver cases. Unlike Administrator Johnson, the D.C. Circuit clearly recognizes the special, leading role California plays under the Clean Air Act with respect to controls on tailpipe emissions.

For example, in Motor & Equipment Mfrs. Ass’n v. Nichols, 142 F.3d 449, 543 (D.C. Cir. 1998), the D.C. Circuit ruled that waiver process is designed “to afford California the broadest possible discretion in selecting the best means to protect the health of its citizens and the public welfare.” (quoting the House Report).

In a more comprehensive discussion in Engine Mfrs. Ass’n v. U.S. EPA, 88 F.3d 1075 (D.C. Cir. 1996), the court explained:
Congress recognized that California was already the “lead[er] in the establishment of standards for regulation of automotive pollutant emissions” at a time when the federal government had yet to promulgate any regulations of its own. California’s Senator Murphy convinced his colleagues that the entire country would benefit from his state’s continuing its pioneering efforts, California serving as “a kind of laboratory for innovation.” This function was enhanced by the 1977 amendments, which permitted other states to “opt in” to the California standards by adopting identical standards as their own. Thus, motor vehicles must be either “federal cars” designed to meet the EPA’s standards or “California cars” designed to meet California’s standards. Rather than being faced with 51 different standards, as they had feared, or with only one, as they had sought, manufacturers must cope with two regulatory standards under the legislative compromise embodied in § 209(a). Id. at 1079-80 (citations and footnotes omitted).

The D.C. Circuit also examined the waiver process in Motor & Equipment Mfrs. Ass’n v. EPA, 627 F.2d 1095 (D.C. Cir. 1979), an unsuccessful industry challenge to EPA’s waiver grant for California rules concerning in-use maintenance of motor vehicles. Tracking the language of the statute, the court observed that EPA must grant a waiver request unless it makes one of the three findings set forth in Section 209(b)(1)(A)-(C). Id. at 1106. The issue is emphatically NOT whether the California rules are a good idea as a matter of policy, but whether EPA discharged its duties under the CAA. Id. at 1105.

Johnson’s bogus concern that a waiver grant here would create a “confusing patchwork” simply cannot be reconciled with the Clean Air Act and the applicable precedents that construe the waiver provisions in Section 209. Expect the D.C. Circuit to make short work of it.

Waxman Opens Investigation into EPA Decision 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 20 Dec 2007 16:13:00 GMT

House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman has just launched an investigation into EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s decision to deny the California waiver to implement its Clean Cars Campaign.

In his letter to the EPA, Waxman writes:
Yesterday, you announced a decision to reject California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. Prior to making this decision you assured the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as the state of Califomia and many others, that you would make this decision on the merits.

It does not appear that you fulfilled that commitment. Your decision appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act. In fact, reports indicate that you overuled the unanimous recommendations of EPA’s legal and technical staffs in rejecting California’s petition.

Your decision not only has important consequences to our nation, but it raises serious questions about the integrity of the decision-making process. Accordingly, the Committee has begun an investigation into this matter. To assist our Committee in this inquiry, I request that you provide us with all documents relating to the California waiver request, other than those that are available on the public record. This request includes all communications within the agency and all communications between the agency and persons outside the agency, including persons in the White House, related to the California waiver request. And all agency staff should be notified immediately to preserve all documents relating to the California waiver request.

You should produce to the Committee all responsive documents from your office by January 10, 2008. All responsive documents from the Office of Transportation and Air Quality and the Office of General Counsel should be produced by January 17,2008, and all other responsive documents should be produced by January 23,2008.

Further California Waiver Denial Responses 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 20 Dec 2007 16:01:00 GMT

Further responses (see California responses) to the waiver denial, including praise from Detroit’s lobby group.

Environmental Defense:

EPA is not following science or the law . . . This decision is like pulling over the fire trucks on their way to the blaze . . . The Administration’s first bold act on global warming – and it’s to stop the states who are trying to do something about the problem. It is just plain shocking. . . New CAFE standards, if they go into effect, do not fully phase in until 2020. The California greenhouse gas limits will occur earlier – beginning in 2009 and fully phased in by 2016. With the mounting evidence of climate change impacts occurring now, it is imperative that we are take action immediately.

NRDC:

This rejection represents bald-faced political interference with California’s decades-long authority to enforce its own clean air rules . . . The California standards are the single most effective step yet taken in the United States to curb global warming. By blocking the California standards, the administration has stuck a thumb in the eye of 18 governors from both red and blue states who have led the way on global warming by adopting these landmark rules.

Friends of the Earth:

There is absolutely no reason for the Bush administration to block California’s effort to fight global warming. Today’s EPA decision is a major setback in the global warming fight and a slap in the face to all of the states that have moved forward when the federal government would not. This decision cements the United States’ reputation as the nation that is holding the rest of the world back at a time when our leadership is desperately needed. One can only hope that the next administration will play a more constructive role.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.):
The EPA’s ruling is disgraceful. The Bush administration’s refusal to carry out the duties imposed on it by the Clean Air Act have polluted our air and water, further endangered the health of millions of Americans, and cost us precious time in our fight to address the looming threat of global warming. We can’t afford to delay strong steps to address global climate change. We will keep fighting to pressure this administration to do the right thing and allow states like Rhode Island to take action.

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers:

We commend EPA for protecting a national, 50-state program. Enhancing energy security and improving fuel economy are priorities to all automakers, but a patchwork quilt of inconsistent and competing fuel economy programs at the state level would only have created confusion, inefficiency, and uncertainty for automakers and consumers. . . Under the new national fuel economy law, automakers will make dramatic, 30-percent reductions in carbon dioxide.

California Reponses to California Waiver Denial 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 20 Dec 2007 15:21:00 GMT

Selected responses from the California congressional delegation and executive branch to EPA’s denial of the California waiver yesterday.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:
EPA’s decision ignores the law, science, and commonsense. This is a policy dictated by politics and ideology, not facts. The Committee will be investigating how and why this decision was made.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.):
Candidly I find this disgraceful. The passage of the Energy Bill does not give the EPA a green light to shirk its responsibility to protect the health and safety of the American people from air pollution.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.):
While the federal energy bill is a good step toward reducing dependence on foreign oil, the President’s approval of it does not constitute grounds for denying our waiver. The energy bill does not reflect a vision, beyond 2020, to address climate change, while California’s vehicle greenhouse gas standards are part of a carefully designed, comprehensive program to fight climate change through 2050 . . . California sued to compel the agency to act on our waiver, and now we will sue to overturn today’s decision and allow Californians to protect our environment.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works:
With Members of Congress leaving town, and with the news on global warming getting worse with each passing day, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has delivered the worst possible news to the good people of California and the 12 other states who have proven they are leaders in fighting for the survival of the planet.

It is ironic that this waiver denial comes during the season when we are supposed to work to make our country and the world a better place. And to hide behind the newly-passed Energy Bill as an excuse flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s findings and the Energy Bill itself.

This ill-advised denial turns its back on science, turns its back on fairness, turns its back on states’ rights, and turns its back on precedent.

I have informed the state of California that I am prepared to take all measures to overturn this harmful decision.

Calif. Attorney General Jerry Brown (D):
It is completely absurd to assert that California does not have a compelling need to fight global warming by curbing greenhouse gas emissions from cars. There is absolutely no legal justification for the Bush administration to deny this request – Governor Schwarzenegger and I are preparing to sue at the earliest possible moment.

EPA Admin Denies California Waiver 134

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 20 Dec 2007 14:37:00 GMT

EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s denial of California’s petition to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions following the White House energy bill signing ceremony was deservedly front page news from coast to coast. The Supreme Court forced the EPA to consider California’s December 2005 Clean Air Act waiver request in April 2007 (Massachusetts v. EPA). In testimony before the Senate and the House earlier this year, Johnson signaled his lack of desire to grant the waiver. Now that decision has come in, with justifications even EPA’s own laywers and policy staff don’t believe. This is the first time in the history of the Clean Air Act that the EPA has denied a section 209 California waiver request.

[Ed.—Warming Law has superior analysis of the decision, from which I’ll steal some key insights.]

The EPA, which is yet to release the formal denial, announced in its press release that the increased CAFE standards in the new energy law to justify its denial of the California waiver:
EPA has determined that a unified federal standard of 35 miles per gallon will deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in all 50 states, which would be more effective than a partial state-by-state approach of 33.8 miles per gallon.

Warming Law says “EPA appears to be attempting to add a new test to the Clean Air Act” in requiring that California prove a local interest in addition to the “compelling” and “extraordinary” standards the Supreme Court said this problem meets.

Warming Law’s Tim Dowling notes that Johnson’s claim the waiver would create a “confusing patchwork of state rules” is typical industry rhetoric that is specious—only two sets of standards, national and California, would apply. “Johnson failed to explain how EPA has been able to grant EVERY other 209 waiver request in history without creating a confusing patchwork, but can’t do so here.”

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reveals that Johnson overrode his staff.
In a PowerPoint presentation prepared for the administrator, aides wrote that if Johnson denied the waiver and California sued, “EPA likely to lose suit.”

If he allowed California to proceed and automakers sued, the staff wrote, “EPA is almost certain to win.”

The technical and legal staffs cautioned Johnson against blocking California’s tailpipe standards, the sources said, and recommended that he either grant the waiver or authorize it for a three-year period before reassessing it.

“Nobody told the administration they support [a denial], and it has the most significant legal challenges associated with it,” said one source, in an interview several hours before Johnson’s announcement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak for the agency. “The most appropriate action is to approve the waiver.”

Mass. v. EPA and Coal: Johnson Gets Grilled 19

Posted by Warming Law Mon, 12 Nov 2007 21:32:00 GMT

(Cross-posted from Warming Law, which focuses on covering and analyzing the fight against global warming from a legal perspective. My name is Sean Siperstein, and I run Warming Law as part of my work for Community Rights Counsel, a non-profit, public interest law firm that assists communities in protecting their health and welfare. Follow the links for more info. about Warming Law; about CRC’s work and history; and for those truly curious, about me. Thanks for the opportunity to join the discussion; I really look forward to it!)

On Thursday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) convened the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to delve into whether the EPA acted properly in approving a permit for a coal-fired power on tribal land in Utah—its first such decision since the Supreme Court’s determination that CO2 is an air pollutant—despite the continued opposition of several environmental groups. Readers can check out the committee’s website for complete video of the fireworks-filled hearing and all testimony.

The hearing’s central witness was EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, who testified that because EPA is still in the process of formulating regulations in response to Mass. v. EPA, CO2 is, for the time being, still not a "regulated pollutant" under the Clean Air Act—and thus, EPA "simply lacks the legal authority…to impose emissions limitations for greenhouse gas emissions on power plants."

Under intense questioning, Johnson continued to stand by his basic talking points, arguing again that EPA’s failure to regulate CO2 keeps it from even beginning to consider it in assessing proposed power plants. Reporting on the hearing, Ryan Grim of the Politico parses Johnson’s testimony and sees something beyond legal reasoning possibly at play here:

Johnson has a tight line to walk: He has to show that he’s in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling while not committing to doing too much. “I have to abide by the law as it’s written today,” Johnson says.

He also thinks that “we must continue to improve our knowledge of the science,” but promises that the EPA is “developing regulations to pursue it from a regulatory standpoint” using a “deliberative and thoughtful process.”

Democrats aren’t buying. “No, you’re not,” Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) tells him flatly. “You’re looking for any avenue you can to avoid doing it.” Several Democrats bring up the EPA’s long-running refusal to approve a waiver for California to enact its own carbon regulation scheme.

The primary argument against Johnson’s take was provided by David Doniger of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who asserted that EPA does have a mandate to move forward, and in doing so should have quickly concluded that new coal-fired plants ought not be approved without significant mitigation strategies. In doing so, Doniger cites several decisions by businesses and state regulators  indicating that concrete action is possible, and summarizes the four main arguments of environmental organizations’ latest formal comments objecting to EPA’s decision:   

  • As a result of the Supreme Court’s determination, in Massacuhsetts v. EPA, that the Clean Air Act is "unambiguous" on CO2’s status as a pollutant, CO2 is "plainly a ‘pollutant subject to regulation’ under the Act. This should trigger Section 165(a)(4) of the Act, which requires that the permit "include an emission limit reflecting the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) ‘for each pollutant subject to regulation.’"
  • Even putting aside the Court’s ruling, CO2 is already a "regulated" pollutant for this purpose under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which require utilities to monitor, record and report CO2 emissions.
  • Even in the absence of a BACT limitation for CO2, Sections 165(a)(4) and 169(3) of the Clean Air Act require that EPA consider other environmental impacts during its BACT analysis for "conventional pollutants (such as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides)"; this requirement should force consideration of global warming, which would certainly qualify as an important environmental consideration, yet EPA has "refused to undertake even this critical analysis in connection with issuing air permits for new coal plants."
  • Under Clean Air Act 165(a)(2), which deals with public comments, the agency is required to weigh comments on factors including air quality impacts, potential alternatives to the proposed plant, and control technology requirements; it also has the power to consider these factors even if they are not raised in public comments. Properly conducted, such a process would find a wide range of available alternatives to allowing conventional new coal plants, but yet again, EPA has failed to even conduct this analysis. 

Rep. Waxman also used the hearing to introduce legislation that would essentially settle the issue, creating a temporary moratorium on the approval of new coal-fired plants until EPA finshes developing its regulations .

Multiple States to Join California Lawsuit Against EPA's Delay on Waiver 15

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 26 Oct 2007 19:55:00 GMT

As discussed by Sean Siperstein at Warming Law, Washington governor Christine Gregoire announced last week that her state would join California when it files suit against the EPA for delay on the waiver petition to allow California and 11 other states to regulate CO2 emissions from automobiles (“clean car” regulations). This week the New York Times reported that New York and the other states intend to join the lawsuit as well.

California intended to file suit against the EPA on Monday, 181 days after its request for action following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA:
We provided 180-day notice on April 26, 2007, of our intent to sue under the Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedure Act, which provide mechanisms for compelling delayed agency action. However, we had frankly held out hope that this dispute would be resolved without the time and expense of a lengthy court battle. Given your comments in front of the Special Committee and the work of the U.S. Department of Transportation, a lawsuit on the 181st day now appears to be inevitable.

The filing of the lawsuit has been delayed by the raging wildfires in California.

Lobbying by the U.S. Department of Transportation Against State Actions to Address Climate Change (cancelled) 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 25 Sep 2007 14:00:00 GMT

Internal e-mails show that Transportation Secretary Mary Peters personally directed a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign approved by the White House to oppose EPA approval of California’s landmark standards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

Judge: Vermont Can Set Greenhouse Gas Standards for Automobiles 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Sep 2007 21:21:00 GMT

Judge William Sessions III issued his ruling in 2:05-CV-302 Green Mountain Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge et al v. Crombie et al, a case in which the American Automobile Manufacturers sued the state of Vermont to block regulations adopted by Vermont in the fall of 2005 that follow’s California’s Pavley Law greenhouse gas emissions standards for new automobiles. Following the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts vs EPA decision that made it clear EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Sessions ruled in full for Vermont, stating:
History suggests that the ingenuity of the industry, once put in gear, responds admirably to most technological challenges. In light of the public statements of industry representatives, history of compliance with previous technological challenges, and the state of the record, the Court remains unconvinced automakers cannot meet the challenges of Vermont and California’s GHG regulations.

The legality of Vermont’s regulations is pending the EPA’s decision to grant the California waiver petition under the Clean Air Act to allow California to implement the Pavley Law. (S. 1785, passed out of committee, would force the EPA to make a decision by September 30.)

Vermont was supported by the Conservation Law Foundation, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, Vermont PIRG, and the state of New York.

The AAM has suits pending in California and Rhode Island as well.

Read the full opinion and order (PDF)

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