Clean Air Act


Provincial Climate Summitry: Day One

Governor Schwarzenegger kicked off his second Global Climate Summit Wednesday in Los Angeles–and “global” is certainly the emphasis.  The three-day conference features panelists from more than 70 states, provinces and countries who are discussing “subnational” strategies to cut carbon emissions.  (That’s the policy wonk term for regional, state and provincial governments).

Events like these are at risk of being feel-good political meet-and-greets, but I spoke with Louis Blumberg of The Nature Conservancy, who believes that the partnerships created at the last climate summit have borne fruit in the past year. Blumberg is part of a deforestation working group made up of five Brazilian states, two provinces in Indonesia and three states in the U.S. They’re working on carbon accounting techniques for forestry projects–or in carbon parlance, REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

Expect more partnership announcements from the rest of the summit.  The first signed this week came from California and Mexico, who announced a partnership to protect Monarch Butterfly habitat in Mexico through reforestation.  California forests are also getting some attention.  The Governor also announced a deal with the largest private forest owner in California, Sierra Pacific Industries, to produce carbon credits from its forestry projects.

Still, for all the state-level dialogue, national climate news stole the show.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared just after the Governor to announce  a proposed rule to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large power plants and refineries. And in Washington, Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry released a national climate bill in the Senate (see Craig Miller’s post for more on that).

The Governor took it all in stride, reminding the audience that California piloted many of the policies the national government is now considering. “That’s how powerful states and regions are,” said Schwarzenegger. “We really are the laboratories for the national governments. That’s where the action is.”

Green Response to EPA’s CO2 Finding: “Duh.”

Reactions are coming in to The EPA’s long-awaited finding today that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases pose a threat to “the public health and welfare.” One California environmental group actually used the word “Duh” in its official response.

After two years of study, prodded by a Supreme Court decision, the federal agency finds that CO2, methane, oxides of nitrogen and two other industrial gases should be regulated as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. A sampling of reactions:

Environment California:

“‘Duh’ may not be a scientific term, but it applies here.  Today, common sense prevailed over pressure from Big Oil and other big polluters to deny the obvious in order to maintain the status quo on energy.  EPA has embraced the basic facts on global warming that scientists around the world have acknowledged for years.”

Governor Schwarzenegger:

“While the federal government was asleep at the wheel for years, we in California have known greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and to our environment – that’s why we have taken such aggressive action to reduce harmful emissions and move toward a greener economy. Two years after the Supreme Court declared greenhouse gas emissions a pollutant, it’s promising to see the new administration in Washington showing signs that it will take an aggressive leadership role in fighting climate change that will lead to reduced emissions, thousands of new green jobs and a healthier future for our children and our planet.”

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma–boldface is his):

“Today’s action by the EPA is the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America’s global competitiveness,” Senator Inhofe said. “It now appears EPA’s regulatory reach will find its way into schools, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and just about any activity that meets minimum thresholds in the Clean Air Act.  Rep. John Dingell was right: the endangerment finding will produce a ‘glorious mess.’

The Wilderness Society:

“This finding was expected, but long overdue because the previous administration respected neither the science nor the law. The consequence of this finding is that EPA will now begin the task of reducing these emissions through the permitting process provided by the Clean Air Act. One way or the other, the clear and present danger of endlessly dumping pollutants into the atmosphere must be confronted.  We will either find a way to build a future for our children based on clean energy and sustainable jobs, or we will face a very unsentimental foe unarmed – a climate that makes life unsustainable. The choice is clear, and the new Administration is following the wisest path forward.”

California moved to regulate carbon emissions three years ago, when state lawmakers passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32. But many specific regulations required by that law have yet to take effect.

California Lobbies for Early Action on EPA Waiver

cars.jpgWasting no time, California officials sent letters to the Obama Administration on its first day, asking that the EPA approve the state’s request for a Clean Air Act waiver, which would allow California to set stricter standards for passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

As Sasha Khokha recently reported for The California Report, Sacramento requested the waiver from the EPA in 2005, only to see it denied in March 2008, a move that has blocked the state from enforcing its own laws designed to reduce tailpipe emissions.  The state has been fighting for the waiver for the last year along with several other states that have adopted the same regulations.

If granted, the waiver would allow California to take steps to reduce emissions from passenger cars 30 percent by 2016.

In his written appeal, Gov. Schwarzenegger asked that President Obama “direct the EPA to act promptly and favorably on California’s reconsideration request so that we may continue the critical work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global climate change.”

California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols also spoke out Wednesday, in a letter to the new designated EPA head Lisa Jackson, stating that “the decision made by the former adminstrator to deny  California the waiver to enforce our clean air car laws was flawed, factually and legally, in fundamental ways.”

At her confirmation hearing, Jackson said only that she promised a “speedy review” of California’s waiver issue.

This fact sheet from CARB explains more about California’s emissions standards for cars and the agency’s take on the waiver controversy.