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For Immediate Release, June 30, 2009

Contacts: Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x302,
Dan Galpern, WELC, (541) 359-3243,

EPA Allows States to Enforce Stricter Greenhouse Gas Tailpipe Emissions Limits
A Hard-fought Victory for Environmental Groups

EUGENE, Oreg.— In a critical step to combat global warming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today granted to California a long-delayed waiver for the state's greenhouse gas reduction law for new vehicles. Today’s action reverses President Bush’s denials of the waiver request in 2007 and 2008.

The new waiver decision pursuant to Sec. 209 of the federal Clean Air Act means that California is able to enforce its own regulations to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from news cars and light trucks. It also means that, pursuant to Sec. 177 of the Clean Air Act, other states can enforce their own rules if identical in substance to California’s tailpipe emission restrictions. States with such tailpipe restrictions include Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Maine, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Such standards have also been adopted by the District of Columbia. Florida, Colorado, Utah, and Montana are poised to adopt the same standards.

Attorneys general from California, 13 other states, and several environmental organizations have worked together for more than two years to secure this victory. Western Environmental Law Center attorney’s Dan Galpern and Matt Kenna represented Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Washington Environmental Council, Environment Washington, 3E Strategies, Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Wild, and Angus Duncan in litigation over this matter in three federal courts.

Dan Galpern, lead counsel for the Western Environmental Law Center on this matter, stated: “EPA, at last, is properly interpreting the law to enable states, as well as the federal government, to restrict pollution that is wreaking havoc with the global climate system. Congress clearly intended California, joined by other states, to lead in eliminating mobile source pollution, just as it intended, under other sections of the Clean Air Act, for states to exercise ‘primary responsibility’ to abate stationary sources of air pollution.” 

Becky Kelley, of Washington Environmental Council, said: “In Washington State, half our global warming pollution comes from transportation. Today’s decision means the state can finally move forward with cleaning up pollution from cars, leading to cleaner air and better choices for consumers.”

“We applaud the administration for this important step to address the climate crisis,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The Clean Air Act is our most important tool to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. For 40 years the Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe, saved lives, and saved money, and this decision allows the law to protect Americans from pollution the way it was intended to do.”

“This is a watershed moment, long-delayed by the recalcitrant Bush administration,” said Danielle Fugere, western region program director of Friends of the Earth. “EPA has finally acknowledged California's legal right to protect its citizens from climate catastrophe by enacting strong and effective laws to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. With this ruling, California can continue to lead the nation in preserving a climate that has allowed the human race to prosper.”

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