Douglas, environmental groups criticize EPA ruling

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(Host) Environmental groups and Governor Jim Douglas are criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for refusing to allow states to adopt tough new clean car standards.

California, Vermont and a dozen other states have proposed new rules to limit greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks.

But in rejecting California’s petition, the EPA said climate change is not any worse in California than in other places.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) The EPA did not discount the problem of climate change.

In a lengthy document released late last week, the agency said a warming world would lead to rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes and more destructive wildfires.

But, the agency said, these problems are not "compelling and extraordinary." The decision says the damage caused by climate change in California is no worse than other places will see.

Steve Hinchman , a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, says the agency’s explanation is a logical disconnect.

(Hinchman) "The net result is that transportation, which is the number 2 source of greenhouse gas emissions in this country, is off limits. Nobody can regulate it."

(Dillon) The Clean Air Act sets up a parallel system of regulation. Car companies can either follow EPA rules, or comply with more strict standards set by California.

Last spring, Hinchman helped argue a case in federal court in Burlington over whether Vermont can follow California’s lead and adopt the new greenhouse gas rules.

U.S. District Judge William Sessions said "yes," rejecting the auto industry’s argument that the greenhouse gas rules were not allowed under federal law.

But California, Vermont and other states still needed EPA’s approval to put the stricter standards into place. EPA’s denial puts the tougher standards on hold.

Governor Jim Douglas said the EPA’s decision last week was irresponsible.

(Douglas) "This is a reversal of decades of public policy under administrations and Congresses of both political parties. California was allowed decades ago to establish its own more rigorous auto emissions standards. And Vermont alone has been granted something like 50 waivers to continue to adjust our standards to maintain them at the California level. All of a sudden in this one case, we aren’t allowed to make that change? It just doesn’t make sense."

(Dillon) In a separate case, the U.S. Supreme Court has also ordered the EPA to write rules to control greenhouse gases from vehicles. But Hinchman said the EPA has put that work on hold as well.

(Hinchman) "This is investing in conflict and investing in delay, trying to give their friends in Detroit as much time as possible before the new standards kick in."

(Dillon) Hinchman says because EPA has refused to act, state and environmental groups will have to take their case back to court.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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