Florida joins lawsuit over auto emission standards

02/05/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole has announced that the DEP has joined the lawsuit filed earlier this year by California seeking to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s waiver denial.

In December, the EPA denied California’s request for a waiver from federal rules in order to enforce state regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

California officials argue that the agency had no legal or technical justification for blocking the new standards, and was immediately joined by 15 other states. Florida is now joins those states.

Last summer, Gov. Charlie Crist signed executive orders to reduce Florida’s greenhouse gases emissions, increase energy efficiency and remove market barriers for renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind energy.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California has the right to set its own standards on air pollutants, but must receive a waiver from the EPA to do so. But the EPA broke with decades of precedent in December and denied California a waiver to move forward with its proposed limits on vehicular emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.

The Bush administration’s lack of flexibility on this issue is yet another indication to environmentalists that it is not serious about dealing with climate change.

Jerry Karnas with Environmental Florida says that if John McCain does become the Republican nominee for president, coupled with the two Democrats stated position on the issue, there will be a change in philosophy in the White House next year.

Karnas praises Florida Republicans, who last week chose McCain over Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney, both of whom were critical of McCain on the issue of climate. Romney derided McCain's support of such legislation as “McCain Lieberman,” a reference to the joint legislation with the Connecticut senator that would require the EPA to promulgate regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

In denying the waiver, EPA Director Stephen Johnson said following a single federal policy rather than having a confusing patchwork of state laws would be a more efficient way to combat global warming.

In December, President Bush signed an energy bill that will raise fuel-efficiency standards nationwide to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, four years later than the California mandate. Johnson said that approach was a better way to address vehicles’ contributions to the greenhouse gas buildup.

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