Vermont joins lawsuit against EPA

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(Host) The state of Vermont has decided to fight the federal government over greenhouse gas emission standards for new cars and trucks.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says Vermont is joining with 14 other states to appeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s rejection of tough new standards adopted in California.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Sorrell says the EPA has done something in this case that he’s never seen a federal agency do. That’s issue an important ruling without releasing any written comments to support the decision.

In the middle of December, the EPA denied California’s plan to impose greenhouse gas emission standards for new cars and trucks that are tougher than existing federal regulations.

California passed its new standards in the summer of 2005, and since that time, Vermont and about a dozen other states have adopted the same regulations. But all of these policies have been put on hold pending approval by the EPA.

Sorrell suspects that the EPA ruling had more to do with politics than appropriate policies.

(Sorrell) "The EPA just denied California‘s standard without any written decision, without any explanation of why. So California has filed a lawsuit today. And Vermont and 14 other states are seeking to join that lawsuit really to force the EPA to explain why they denied the waiver for California standards."

(Kinzel) Sorrell says this legal battle also involves an individual state’s authority to adopt environmental regulations that are tougher than those imposed by the federal government.

(Sorrell) "Otherwise we’re stuck with the federal standard. And by the EPA turning down the California standard, it really flies in the face of what the Congress intended when it said that: `California, you can adopt a different, more stringent standard for emissions of global warming gases, greenhouse gases. And other states, you can sign on to the California standards if you wish or stay with the federal standard.’"

(Kinzel) Sorrell expects that this case will eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a process that he says could take several years.

(Sorrell) "I would be surprised if we get through the intermediate federal circuit court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court before January of ’09, when we have a new president and what will probably be a very different EPA. But this is a long term battle."

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas applauded the decision to appeal the EPA ruling.  In a statement, Douglas said, "The Bush Administration has stalled too long on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. The states are doing their part to fight climate change. It’s time for the federal government to follow our lead."

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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