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CA Sues EPA Over Vehicle Emissions Standards; CARB Disputes Effectiveness of New Federal Standards

California's immediate appeal of EPA's denial of its request for a Clean Air Act waiver to set stricter vehicle emissions standards than required by federal law is the focus of this Emerging Issues Commentary by Steven Jones, a partner with the Marten Law Group. As Mr. Jones explains, 40 prior waiver requests have been granted to California by EPA and this is the first time a waiver request has been denied. After providing background information on the current waiver request, Mr. Jones discusses EPA's position in denying the request, the California Air Resources Board's response disputing that position, and previous cases litigating state vehicle emissions standards. He also points out that 15 other states have intervened in the appeal, demonstrating their frustration over the federal government's response to climate change. Mr. Jones concludes by offering practical advice on the importance of this appeal and its outcome.
Mr. Jones writes: “This is the first time EPA has denied a waiver request from California. Previous waivers had allowed California to enforce stricter air quality regulations than those imposed by the CAA. EPA had granted all 40 of California's requests for these waivers over the last 30 years. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson distinguished the current waiver request from prior requests based on the nature of the pollutants that California sought to regulate, stating that '[u]nlike other air pollutants covered by previous waivers, greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature. … [As a result], this challenge is not exclusive or unique to California and differs in a basic way from the previous local and regional air pollution problems addressed in prior waivers.’
“EPA's position is supported by a recent Congressional Research Service study on California's regulation which reported that, even if the regulation was implemented by all 16 states, it would only reduce worldwide GHG emissions by 0.6 %. Based on these figures, EPA may argue that the only effective way to address California's conditions is to implement a national standard. Under section 209, California must 'determine that the State standards will be, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable Federal standards.' EPA is required to defer to such a finding, unless it finds California's decision to be arbitrary and capricious.”
To read the entire commentary, click on the link below: