States Sue Epa For Violating Clean Air Act And Refusing To Act On Global Warming

Ten state Attorneys General today sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to adopt strong emission standards to reduce air pollution from new power plants across the nation. The District of Columbia and the City of New York also joined in the legal action.

The Clean Air Act requires that the EPA review and revise emission standards for new pollution sources every eight years to ensure that they protect public health and the environment. On February 27, 2006, EPA issued revised regulations in accordance with a court order. However, the revised standards completely fail to regulate power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the major contributor to global warming. In addition, the revised standards for other air pollutants harmful to public health are unacceptably lax.

New York Attorney General Spitzer said: "In defense of public health, the environment and our economy, power plants must be required to sharply reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s newly adopted rule represents an abdication of leadership and foresight in favor of the unacceptable status quo."

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said: "Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing the planet. If we want to help safeguard the environment for future generations, we need to take every step we can now to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming. The EPA should be acting on behalf of public health and the environment, not polluters."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: "These standards fall far short of shielding the environment and public health from emissions that imperil our environment. The EPA has once again sided with industry over the public. The Bush administration continues its destructive and delusional denial of global warming, refusing to act responsibly, even as scientific evidence of climate change becomes indisputable. I will join other states in fighting to overturn these sham rules and replace them with effective standards."

District of Columbia Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti said: "Air pollution is a local, national and global concern, and it is critical for EPA to impose stringent emission standards to help address the problem. Unfortunately, the revised standards we are challenging today fail to appropriately regulate power plant emissions, which are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gases and elevated ozone levels. The District’s air quality is negatively affected by transport pollution from power plants in other states, and without clear federal action, the citizens fo the District are at risk. Therefore, the District of Columbia stands firmly behind this lawsuit seeking to compel EPA to adopt standards that will help clean the air we all breathe."

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said: "This administration acknowledges that global warming poses serious dangers to our environment and health, but continues not to do anything to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, we have to take legal action once again. We are taking on this challenge to protect our environment for the future. If we don’t, what kind of world will we leave to our children and grandchildren?"

New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said: "As a coastal, island city that is the most densely populated urban area in the United States, New York City remains concerned about the adverse impacts from global warming that our residents, infrastructure, and resources have - - and will continue - - to experience. In light of the City’s partial reliance on electrical power from these units, the EPA should take steps to regulate these units in accordance with the Clean Air Act."

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said: "Once again we are forced to take the federal government to court to protect the health of our citizens and our environment. In this time when the federal government is controlled by one party we see the checks and balances breaking down. It is shocking that our own government has once again chosen to favor corporate profits over the well being of its own citizens. Once again, we must go to court to insist that our government is one of laws and not special interests. We must ensure that the law is obeyed, regardless of who is in office."

Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said: "Global warming is a reality. It is unfortunate that Oregon and other states must turn to the courts to convince the federal government that clean air is a national priority. Adhering to the Clean Air Act is not optional."

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch said: "The Ocean State cannot sit idly by as the threats of rising sea levels, worsening air quality, water shortages, and droughts go unchecked by the very agency charged by law to address them. Carbon dioxide is the air pollutant most responsible for global warming, yet EPA continues to bet against this scientific consensus, against its own legal obligations, and against the nation, leaving litigation of this nature as one of the only solutions left to address the proliferation of carbon dioxide pollution.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said: "EPA must re-think its decision not to regulate carbon dioxide and must recall these weak emission standards. New power plants must be required to use the most effective technologies to minimize harmful pollution."

Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said: "Standing up for the protection of Wisconsin’s clean air and natural environment is a critical responsibility - - and once again the federal EPA is failing to carry out the Clean Air Act. No less than our children’s health and the fate of the planet are at stake - - so I am proud the states are taking action to ensure that EPA does its job."

EPA’s rulemaking in this matter is inadequate in two fundamental ways:

First, EPA refused to regulate carbon dioxide, despite overwhelming research and scientific consensus that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and thus harms "public health and welfare." EPA’s claim that it does not have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is contrary to the plain language of the Clean Air Act.

Second, EPA failed to set adequate standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, power plant pollutants that contribute to soot, smog, acid rain and higher levels of respiratory disease. The law dictates that the emission safeguards be set at levels that require use of the best demonstrated technology, but EPA is setting weak standards that can be met through less effective technologies.

A growing body of evidence, including reports from the National Academy of Sciences, NASA and major universities, has found that increasing global temperatures will have dramatic effects in the United States, including rising sea levels, worsened air quality, water shortages and droughts, and increased intensity of hurricanes. Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions responsible for increasing temperatures worldwide. According to current projections, dozens or even hundreds of new coal-fired plants will be built in the United States over the next 15 years. Under the current rule, these plants would face no requirement to control or reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Since the power plants have a life span of 40-60 years, the plants built in the near future will determine the level of our carbon emissions for generations.

A coalition of environmental organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense filed a related petition today.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is being handled by New York Assistant Attorney General Jared Snyder and Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Peter Lehner.


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