Cuomo Leads Coalition Of 15 States Against Epa In Battle For States; Right To Fight Global Warming

NEW YORK, NY (January 2, 2008) - New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is leading a 15 state coalition that is joining a lawsuit brought by California against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to uphold the right of states to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from automobiles.

“The EPA’s attempt to stop New York and other states from taking on global warming pollution from automobiles is shameful,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “As recognized by the scientific community and most world leaders, global warming will have devastating impacts on our environment, health, and economy if it continues to go unchecked. By denying New York the right to set global warming emission standards for cars, the Bush administration is intentionally obstructing our efforts to combat climate change.”

“Global warming is one of the most serious environmental problems of our generation. It is a huge disappointment that the federal government is blocking the state's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars. The federal government has left us no other option than to challenge this misguided decision in court. We are confident that the court will allow the states to take action to address global warming,” said New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

“The EPA's decision is nonsensical. It claims that a single standard adopted by numerous states makes for a ‘confusing patchwork.’ Baloney. Rather it marks an effort to tackle a serious issue in the absence of any
federal action,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis.

The federal Clean Air Act grants California -- exclusively among all states -- the power to enact its own air pollution standards for cars. The Clean Air Act also allows other states to adopt California’s standards, but those standards can only take effect if the EPA grants a waiver exempting California from federal regulation.

However, the EPA denied California’s request for a waiver on December 19, 2007, saying that allowing states to impelement greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars would create a “confusing patchwork” of legislation.

The California standards, adopted in September 2004, would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from cars by 30% by 2016. New York adopted California’s standards in December 2005, and at least 15 other states have now either adopted or plan to adopt the California standards.

“The EPA’s decision is absurd on its face,” Attorney General Cuomo continued. “The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to grant California a waiver if the need is ‘compelling and extraordinary.’ Today there is simply no environmental issue more ‘compelling’ or ‘extraordinary’ than the increasing threat of climate change. Greenhouse gas emission standards for cars are a logical and necessary step to effectively combat global warming.”

Today’s lawsuit, which seeks to reverse the EPA decision, was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The other states or state agencies joining New York in intervening in the suit are: Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The New York Attorney General’s office has been leading the fight against global warming on a number of fronts:

  • On December 11, 2007, the New York Attorney General’s office and a group of nine states helped to win a landmark decision in a case against the automobile industry, which had sued the State of California to prevent it from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The decision specifically endorsed the authority of California to regulate emissions from automobiles and allowed states to adopt those regulations.
  • On November 15, 2007, in a case brought by New York and ten other states, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out weak mileage standards for light trucks, ruling that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had failed to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from trucks on the environment.
  • On September 17, 2007, the New York Attorney General’s office subpoenaed five large energy companies to investigate whether their investors were informed about the potential financial risks posed by coal-burning plants which release global warming pollution emissions.
  • On September 12, 2007, the New York Attorney General’s office, with the Attorney General of Vermont, won a decision in federal district court upholding the legality of the greenhouse gas standards for cars adopted by New York and Vermont.

Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit against the EPA is part of his office’s ongoing efforts to step in when the federal government has failed to take action on critical issues affecting New York State. Over the past year, Cuomo has tackled a variety of problems that were neglected by federal authorities and is continuing to investigate numerous areas such as the student loan industry, the mortgage industry and doctor ranking programs.

Attorney General Cuomo added, “From failing to confront unscrupulous practices in the student loan industry to ignoring the emerging mortgage crisis, the federal government under the Bush administration has been consistently asleep at the switch. Their negligence has been compounded by an unorthodox determination to halt any steps taken by New York and other states to address these issues. Our suit against the EPA challenges the Bush administration’s continuing policy of imposing inaction on individual states.”

The suit announced today is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Yueh-ru Chu and Michael Myers, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.

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