State environmentalists poised to sue EPA

Several Washington environmental groups began legal action against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for delaying state legislation to curb auto emissions that contribute to global warming.

The groups joined environmentalists in Oregon and California - two other states with stymied clean air and clean car laws - calling on the EPA to issue the necessary waiver to allow the laws to go into effect in 2009, or face a lawsuit.

The state legislation is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent by 2016, In Washington state, transportation sources account for about 50 percent of the state's global warming pollution.

California has been seeking the EPA waiver for two years. Twelve other states have similar laws that assert the states' authority under the Clean Air Act to restrict greenhouse gas auto emissions.

Industry response

The auto industry has challenged that assertion by the states, claiming the air emission standards are mileage standards that are the purview of the federal government.

But a federal judge in Vermont last week ruled that the state auto emission rules are not pre-empted by other federal laws.

"So far the federal government has refused to allow Washington to implement our new Clean Cars law to improve water quality and reduce global warming pollution," said Becky Kelley, climate change director of the Washington Environmental Council. "That's not right and that's why we are taking action today.''

Other environmental groups based in Washington joining in the notice of intent to sue the EPA are Climate Solutions, the Northwest Energy Coalition and Environment Washington.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has promised a decision by the end of the year on whether or not to grant the waiver.

The new standards would require automakers to use more efficient transmissions and air conditioners and smaller engines, boosting the cost of an average vehicle about $1,000, according to 2005 estimates when the clean car bill passed into law.

At the same time, supporters of the new air emission standards said a motorist would save $3,400 in better fuel efficiency over the lifetime of the vehicle.