States vie with US over emissions rules
Led by California, 11 states are pushing hard to get permission to set stricter standards than federal law requires.
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The EPA's Mr. Millett says such suits are common, and he notes that the agency is equally vulnerable to lawsuits if it does not meet its mandate for holding proper and fair hearings.Skip to next paragraph
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The waiver process raises complicated questions of states' rights and federal prerogatives amid a political backdrop that has twisted the usual Republican-Democrat dynamic, say some observers.
"Traditionally, Democrats are stronger federalists at the expense of states, and conservatives and Republicans espouse stronger states' rights," says James Winebrake, chairman of the public policy department at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. "In this case, the White House is dragging its feet and you have to ask why.... That is what the governors of these states are pressing for answers about."
Federal justifications for denying a waiver, say Winebrake and others, are twofold. One is concern that state-by-state emissions standards could force automakers to make different models, increasing costs and creating production problems. The other is concern that a waiver might break legal precedents that define the jurisdictional line between Congress and the states over power to regulate commerce.
In the hearing Wednesday, environmental groups such as Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as California's state EPA, are expected to testify that cars create about 40 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in the state and need to be reduced 30 percent by 2013.
"If we do nothing, temperatures could rise up to 10-1/2 degrees by the end of the century, impacting water supplies, harming our world-class agriculture industry, and increasing heat-related deaths," according to written testimony from Linda Adams, California's secretary for environmental protection, which she is expected to repeat at the hearing.
Auto representatives and other industry groups will also testify. "We will tell them there needs to be a multisector, national approach to addressing greenhouse-gas emissions, rather than a patchwork quilt of state regulations," says Charlie Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Congress or federal agencies should act instead, he says.
President Bush, in fact, two weeks ago gave federal agencies until the end of 2008 to finish studying the greenhouse-gas threat and to decide what can be done. Moreover, many bills are percolating in Congress to address the issue.
For the moment, says Mr. Territo, his group will dispute the claim that new state rules would measurably help the environment. "To achieve this waiver there are some criteria that need to be met," says Territo. "One ... is that there needs to be extraordinary and compelling evidence that failure to adopt the regulations would have a devastating impact on the state. We will produce scientists who say no such evidence exists."
Waiting for EPA sign-off
Below are the states that, like California, have adopted standards that would reduce exhaust from cars and light trucks by 25 percent and from SUVs by 18 percent.
5. New Jersey
6. New York
9. Rhode Island