California Court Echoes Massachusetts v EPA and Vermont 9th Circuit Decisions,
Flies in Face of White House Veto Threat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California added its voice to the chorus of legal opinions reinforcing the right of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon-dioxide, from motor vehicles. The court also concluded that this authority does not interfere with or conflict with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) responsibility to set fuel economy standards.

“Echoing the Supreme Court and the Vermont circuit court decisions from earlier this year, today’s court decision reinforces the roles that EPA, DOT and the states should all play in our national effort to confront global warming. As delegates from almost 200 nations meet in Bali to lay the groundwork for a treaty to combat global warming, and Congress debates an energy bill that would raise fuel economy standards for America’s vehicles, President Bush has once again shown his utter disregard for the environment, our economy, and the health of our planet by threatening to veto the energy bill over the very issue the California court affirmed today,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

In April, the Supreme Court decided in Massachusetts v EPA that “Because greenhouse gases fit well within the [Clean Air] Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant,’ EPA has statutory authority to regulate emission of such gases from new motor vehicles”. The Supreme Court also said that if EPA determined that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles endangered public health or safety, it was required to regulate them. California also has authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own, more stringent greenhouse gas standards that other states can adopt once EPA grants California the necessary waiver.

In May, President Bush ordered a federal greenhouse gas standard rule-making process to begin at EPA and for EPA to work closely with other agencies such as DOT. This proposal is reportedly almost complete after extensive consultation with DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last week, however, with Congress on the verge of passing an energy bill that raises fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, the President has issued a last minute demand that Congress include language in the bill to effectively overrule the Supreme Court, the Vermont 9th Circuit Court and the California court and throw out his own EPA’s hard work from the past seven months. Specifically the White House veto threat states that “the bill needs to clarify one agency as the sole entity, after consultation with other affected agencies, to be responsible for a single national regulatory standard for both fuel economy and tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.”

“The Bush Administration is saying to Congress, ‘Please take away the authority I have to order the EPA to cut carbon emissions, so I don’t have to,’” concluded Markey. “Clearly, after years of legal wrangling by the White House to avoid any decisive action on global warming, they are now all too willing to take down the entire energy bill, including a popular increase in fuel economy standards, with their climate inaction scheme.”

December 12, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer (Markey), 202.225.2836
Eben Burnham-Snyder (Select Cmte). 202.225.4081