Apr 3, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
The Supreme Court has ruled that greenhouse gases are polluting emissions subject to regulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, new cars in the relatively near future are going to have to emit much lower CO2 than they do now. This adds to the pressures on the auto industry to end business as usual thinking, and, we hope, start building "good enough" PHEVs. It adds to the momentum to fuel cars from renewable low-carbon sources.
This ruling sets the stage for the EPA to approve the waiver necessary for California's first Global Warming Bill (AB1493, 2002) to go into effect. That bill requires automakers to begin reducing GHGs from cars beginning in 2009, with reductions reaching 30% in 2016. Back in 2004, at the Air Resources Board's hearings on implementing the bill, we got ARB members' attention by pointing out that GHGs in new cars could drop by 60% if they were PHEVs http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/66.html.
The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, Senator Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment Committe (who we expect will see two PHEVs next week: http://www.calcars.org/events.html) and Michigan Rep. John Dingell now find themselves agreeing on the need uniform for a national approach to the problem. And it looks like those standards may now have a chance of being established at meaningful levels!
Our round-up of articles from the San Jose Mercury News, the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times give the context and talk about the implications of the rulings.
Supreme Court ruling backs up state law requiring eco-friendly cars 5-4 DECISION EASES WAY FOR CALIFORNIA TO MAKE CARMAKERS CUT GAS EMISSIONS
By Paul Rogers progers@... or (408)920-5045. San Jose Mercury News 04/03/2007 http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_5582561
Monday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on global warming increases the chances that a new generation of fuel-efficient cars could begin hitting the roads as soon as next year.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court - taking up global warming for the first time - declared that the federal Clean Air Act clearly allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide as a form of air pollution.
The ruling, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, was a stern rebuke to the Bush administration, which argued the EPA had no authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
"This is probably the most important Supreme Court environmental ruling in history," said Carl Pope, national executive director of the Sierra Club, in San Francisco.
"It is huge. It takes off the table the arguments that the Bush administration has been making in case after case - that environmental law shouldn't apply to global warming."
The ruling directly affects whether California can order automakers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide - formed by the burning of gasoline - and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.
In 2002, then-Gov. Gray Davis signed a first-in-the-nation law that requires all new cars, passenger trucks, sport-utility vehicles and minivans sold in California to cut greenhouse gas emissions starting with the 2009 model year. Those vehicles would begin to appear in show rooms late next year. The law required that by 2016, carmakers had to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30percent.
Automakers sued. They claimed that California did not have the authority, saying the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to burn less gasoline and that only the federal government can set mileage standards.
But California said it wasn't regulating mileage standards, only a form of pollution, carbon dioxide - a move allowed under the Clean Air Act.
The lawsuit, filed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, has been put on hold in federal court in Fresno pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
"We believe this bodes very well for us," said California EPA Undersecretary Dan Skopec.
A spokesman for the alliance would not discuss the case Monday.
"The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers believes that there needs to be a national, federal, economywide approach to addressing greenhouse gases," its president, Dave McCurdy, said Monday.
If California wins the lawsuit, which now seems likely, one hurdle would remain. The Clean Air Act requires the state to gain the federal EPA's approval for its new rules. In years past, for other rules, such waivers have been a formality. Despite requests from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the past two years, the Bush administration has refused to grant the waiver for the greenhouse rules.
"I am very encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today that greenhouse gases are pollutants and should be regulated by the federal government," the governor said Monday. "We expect the U.S. EPA to move quickly now in granting our request for a waiver, which will allow California and 13 other states that have adopted our standards to set tougher vehicle emissions levels."
Seventeen states - including most of New England, New York, Oregon and Washington - have either copied California's rule or have bills pending to do so. Together they make up 50percent of the U.S. population.
In effect, California has tried to do an end-run around the Bush administration, which has embraced only voluntary greenhouse gas limits. The California EPA has said the vehicle rule could be met with such technology as low-rolling-resistance tires, more hybrid engines and variable-valve timing. By 2016, those would add $1,000 to the price of a new car, according to the state Air Resources Board, which contends drivers make up the difference with reduced fuel costs.
Tom Jennings, chief counsel for the California Air Resources Board, said Monday that the state is now in the driver's seat legally.
"If EPA were to deny the waiver, we are fully prepared to litigate that," he said.
The Bush administration's response was muted. The White House said the ruling "settled" whether the EPA could regulate the gases.
"We're going to have to take a look and analyze it and see where we go from here," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.
Now that the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide, even if Bush is slow to act, future presidents could impose sweeping national EPA rules on factories and vehicles. That could be good news for companies in Silicon Valley and other areas who are developing solar power and other energy-efficient products, said Ron Pernick, co-founder of Clean Edge, a research company in Portland, Ore.
"It has significant ramifications," Pernick said. "There are companies like Sharp and GE and Toyota and even Wal-Mart that already are investing in clean technology because of global warming. This is going to incentivize more companies to act."
In Monday's ruling, Massachusetts, along with 11 other states, including California, sued the U.S. EPA after it refused in 2003 to regulate carbon dioxide as it does other types of smog.
Stevens said the Clean Air Act clearly allows carbon dioxide to be regulated because it defines a pollutant as "any physical, chemical ... substance or matter which is emitted" into the air. Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed.
Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, along with Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Roberts wrote his dissent "involves no judgment on whether global warming exists, what causes it, or the extent of the problem," but rather whether the states had standing to sue.
Last year was the hottest annual average temperature in the United States since records were first kept 112 years ago, according to the National Climatic Data Center, a federal agency in North Carolina.
Court Rulings Could Hit Utilities, Auto Makers White House Strategy Toward CO2 Emissions Is Faulted by Justices By JESS BRAVIN --Dean Treftz, John Fialka and John D. McKinnon contributed to this article. April 3, 2007; Page A1 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117552446611256790.html
WASHINGTON -- In a decision that could mark a turning point in the national debate over climate change, a divided Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and that the Bush administration broke the law in its refusal to limit emissions of those gases.
The 5-4 decision was a victory for environmental groups, which had pushed for such a ruling, and a blow to the nation's auto and utility industries, among others, as well as the White House. The Bush administration has steadfastly opposed mandatory curbs on the emission of greenhouse gases, which most scientists believe contribute to global warming.
The high court's decision turned on the technical issue of how to measure a power plant's compliance with the Clean Air Act. It didn't resolve a larger, longstanding debate among the utilities industry, the Environmental Protection Agency and environmentalists about the circumstance under which utilities can be required to upgrade power plants.
It was the greenhouse-gases case that could have the broadest impact on both the nation's environment and its economy. The court's decision sets the stage for aggressive new regulation of auto emissions, a primary source of carbon dioxide.
Any new regulations, which could be years away, would be likely to tackle the emissions issue by requiring auto makers to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles. While that would ultimately be good news for consumers, it could mean further distress for Detroit, where the struggling U.S. auto industry remains largely dependent on selling gas-guzzling trucks and sport-utility vehicles.
Individual auto makers declined to comment on the ruling, referring questions to their trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "The alliance looks forward to working constructively with both Congress and the administration, including EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , in developing a national approach" to greenhouse emissions, the group said in a statement.
In a separate statement, EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said the agency was reviewing the decision "to determine the appropriate course of action." She said the Bush administration has an "unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions." She added that the "national and international voluntary programs" the administration prefers to regulation "are helping achieve reductions now while saving millions of dollars, as well as providing clean, affordable energy."
In any case, the slow pace of the nation's regulatory machinery, the potential for congressional or legal challenges to future regulations, and the lead time industry would need to comply with them effectively ensure that no significant changes in regulating emissions will take effect during the remainder of Mr. Bush's time in office.
That doesn't mean that Congress, now controlled by Democrats, won't press the issue. The House is already gearing up for action on climate change through a special committee set up by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to focus and coordinate work by the different panels with oversight of energy and the environment.
The Senate also has taken up the cause. "This decision puts the wind at our back," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. She promised to call the EPA before her committee to explain how it intends to comply with the ruling, while also pushing for additional legislation.
In their ruling, the justices didn't order the EPA to regulate tailpipe emissions or say the agency couldn't take "policy concerns" into account when deciding what to do. But the opinion made clear that the court saw the Clean Air Act as a broad congressional mandate to protect the environment, suggesting it would have little patience with any future EPA finding that the law's goals were furthered by declining to regulate those emissions.
"EPA can avoid taking further action only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do," the court said.
In effect, the court found that the debate over the nation's response to climate change had been settled by Congress nearly 40 years ago, when it adopted the Clean Air Act. The law directs the EPA to adopt emission standards for "any air pollutant" from any type of motor vehicle that "could reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare," including effects on "weather" and "climate."
Considered alongside scientific evidence and longstanding government policies recognizing the danger of climate change, the administration's failure to act was "arbitrary, capricious...or otherwise not in accordance with law," the high court said.
Justices Say E.P.A. Has Power to Act on Harmful Gases
By LINDA GREENHOUSE
The New York Times April 3, 2007
WASHINGTON, April 2 - In one of its most important environmental decisions in years, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases in automobile emissions. The court further ruled that the agency could not sidestep its authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change unless it could provide a scientific basis for its refusal.
The 5-to-4 decision was a strong rebuke to the Bush administration, which has maintained that it does not have the right to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, it would not use the authority. The ruling does not force the environmental agency to regulate auto emissions, but it would almost certainly face further legal action if it failed to do so.
Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said the only way the agency could "avoid taking further action" now was "if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change" or provides a good explanation why it cannot or will not find out whether they do.
Beyond the specific context for this case - so-called "tailpipe emissions" from cars and trucks, which account for about one-fourth of the country's total emissions of heat-trapping gases - the decision is likely to have a broader impact on the debate over government efforts to address global warming.
Court cases around the country had been held up to await the decision in this case. Among them is a challenge to the environmental agency's refusal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, now pending in the federal appeals court here. Individual states, led by California, are also moving aggressively into what they have seen as a regulatory vacuum.
Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, said that by providing nothing more than a "laundry list of reasons not to regulate," the environmental agency had defied the Clean Air Act's "clear statutory command." He said a refusal to regulate could be based only on science and "reasoned justification," adding that while the statute left the central determination to the "judgment" of the agency's administrator, "the use of the word 'judgment' is not a roving license to ignore the statutory text."
Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the main industry trade group, said in response to the decision that the alliance "looks forward to working constructively with both Congress and the administration" in addressing the issue. "This decision says that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be part of this process," Mr. McCurdy said.
Ruling Undermines Lawsuits Opposing Emissions Controls
By FELICITY BARRINGER Nick Bunkley contributed reporting from Detroit.
The New York Times April 3, 2007
Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on carbon dioxide emissions largely shredded the underpinning of other lawsuits trying to block regulation of the emissions and gave new momentum to Congressional efforts to control heat-trapping gases linked to climate change.
Environmental groups and states that have adopted controls on carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle tailpipes responded with jubilation, while the auto industry and some of its backers, like Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, offered statements of resigned disappointment.
"This is fantastic news," said Ian Bowles, the secretary of environmental affairs for Massachusetts, the state that had petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to control the emissions from cars and trucks, which represent slightly less than one-quarter of the country's total heat-trapping gases.
The E.P.A. had argued that it had no authority to do so under the Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, such regulation would run afoul of other administration plans to combat climate change. The Supreme Court rejected those arguments.
"You've seen the Bush administration hiding behind this argument to avoid action, and this puts that to rest," Mr. Bowles said.
Pennsylvania's secretary of environmental protection, Kathleen McGinty, added, "We hope it means any further opposition and challenge to the legal standards will go away and we can get about the job of cleaning up the auto fleet and making a dent in greenhouse-gas pollution."
The arguments rejected by the court have been invoked in other legal challenges, including a case pending in California in which auto industry trade groups argue against that state's law controlling carbon-dioxide emissions from cars, and one in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where electric utilities are fighting the E.P.A.'s authority to regulate their emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.
Both cases had been stayed awaiting yesterday's ruling.
Some companies may now find new affection for proposals in Congress for a cap-and-trade system to aid emissions control. Under this type of system, companies that had reduced emissions beyond a set limit could sell credits earned by their excess reductions to companies that failed to meet emissions limits.
"This flips the debate from an environment in which Congress must act if there is to be federal action," said Tim Profeta, the director of the Nicholas Institute for the Environment at Duke University, "to one in which the E.P.A. can act as soon as an administration friendly to the concept is in power."
"If there is a President Clinton or President McCain," Mr. Profeta added, "he or she doesn't have to go to Congress to get action."
The reaction from Capitol Hill underscored this point.
"While I still believe Congress did not intend for the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, the Supreme Court has made its decision and the matter is now settled," Mr. Dingell said in a prepared statement. "Today's ruling provides another compelling reason why Congress must enact, and the president must sign, comprehensive climate change legislation."
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and a sponsor of the most stringent of the global-warming proposals currently before Congress, said in a statement: "This decision puts the wind at our back. It takes away the excuse the administration has been using for not taking action to deal with global-warming pollution."
Another prod for federal action is the likelihood that California will be able to use the new ruling to parry legal challenges to its new law calling for a cut of nearly 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions on passenger vehicles sold in the state starting in 2016. A dozen other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, have enacted laws adopting the California standard. These states are home to more than a third of the vehicles sold in the United States.
But before those standards can take effect, the environmental agency must grant the states a waiver.
"I am very encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today that greenhouse gases are pollutants and should be regulated by the federal government," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican. "We expect the U.S. E.P.A. to move quickly now in granting our request for a waiver."
The prospect of separate state and federal emissions standards is one of Detroit's worst nightmares.
Walter McManus, director of automotive analysis for the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan, argued that the environmental agency was best suited to regulate automotive emissions and fuel economy.
"They are the ones who really have the expertise about fuel economy and greenhouse gases," Mr. McManus said.