Md. Will Challenge Rejection Of Air Rules

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2007

Maryland intends to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its rejection of a California policy limiting emissions from vehicles, hoping to save a parallel law in Maryland, the state Attorney General said yesterday.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said that Maryland's Clean Cars Act, which would require cars and trucks in Maryland to meet California's standards for greenhouse-gas pollution starting in 2011, would be put on hold by the EPA's ruling.

Because of that, Gansler said, Maryland officials want to join any litigation filed by officials in California, who have said they are preparing a lawsuit.

"We feel like we're on strong legal ground to bring this suit," Gansler said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There's no legal justification for them [the EPA] to deny the request."

The EPA's decision, announced Wednesday night by agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, is likely to face legal challenges from across the country.

William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said that 13 states have adopted the California standards, and five others have expressed interest in following them. Some or all of them might file suit, he said.

"There's a battle brewing, I can tell you that," Becker said. His group is made up of state and local government air pollution control agencies.

The rule in California called for reducing vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent from 2009 to 2016. Transportation-related emissions, including those from cars, trucks and airplanes, accounted for 33 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases in 2005.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California's rule required permission from the EPA.

Johnson denied it, saying that the federal government was working to reduce emissions nationwide. He cited the energy bill signed this week by President Bush, which requires cars to become more efficient and burn less gasoline.

In court, the key issue could be whether California's plan is justified by "compelling and extraordinary conditions." California says it is, citing the pressing threat of climate change. The EPA says it isn't, since climate change is not a problem limited to California.

"The question is how to have an effective strategy," Bush said at a news conference. "Is it more effective to let each state make a decision as to how to proceed in curbing greenhouse gases? Or is it more effective to have a national strategy?"

Officials at the Maryland Department of the Environment said yesterday that they would continue preparing to implement the Clean Cars Act in 2011.

In the District, the D.C. Council is considering its own clean-cars bill, which could also peg the District's auto-emissions standards to those in California.

One of the bill's sponsors, council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), said yesterday that he did not intend to change the text of the bill. Mendelson said he thinks that a court will reverse the EPA's decision before the D.C. bill would take effect in 2011.

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