California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday vowed to reverse the denial by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide an emissions waiver.
Schwarzenegger said in a statement that California and 15 otherstates had filed a lawsuit against the EPA to overturn its decision denying a waiver to enforce state regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"It is unconscionable that the federal government is keeping California and 19 other states from adopting these standards," Schwarzenegger said.
"They are ignoring the will of millions of people who want their government to take action in the fight against global warming," he added."That's why, at the very first legal opportunity, we're suing to reverse the U.S. EPA's wrong decision."
The governor also said "California has always been a leader in protecting the environment, and we will do everything in our powerto continue that proud tradition."
The lawsuit challenges the decision by the EPA last month to deny California a waiver to pass its own tailpipe rules, which is permitted under the 1970 Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act allows other states to follow California rules or federal rules on the air pollution issue, so long as the federal government grants California a waiver.
Over the past 40 years, the EPA has granted California more than 40 waivers, denying none. More than a dozen other states are expected to file a motion to intervene in support of California's lawsuit, including Massachusetts and New York.
The original request for a waiver of federal preemption of California's motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards was made by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on December 21, 2005.
The waiver, allowing California to enact and enforce emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, wasrequested after the ARB developed regulations based on a 2002 California law, AB 1493.
That law required California to establish new standards for motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions beginning in model year 2009. The ARB-adopted regulations will phase in and ramp up over eight years to cut global warming emissions from new vehicles by nearly 30 percent by model year 2016.
By implementing these standards, California would be eliminating greenhouse gases equivalent to taking 6.5 million carsoff the road by the year 2020. If all the other states with similar plans follow through, that figure would grow to more than 22 million vehicles and would cut gasoline consumption by an estimated 11 billion or more gallons a year.
Schwarzenegger has sent letters to President George W. Bush, reiterating the urgency of approving California's request to address global warming.
California's request has been supported by recent judicial decisions. Last September, a court decision in Vermont confirmed that states have the ability to adopt California's motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards.
In the Vermont case, the judge dismissed the argument by automobile manufacturers that they could not comply with the California-based regulation because the technology was out of reach and that it would cost too much.
The Vermont decision came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last April saying the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Last month, a federal court in Fresno, California issued a ruling that re-confirms states' ability to set motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards, modeled after California's strict regulations.
Nineteen states, comprising about 45 percent of all U.S. auto sales have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, California's automobile emissions standards, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.