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December 2003

Bush Administration Sued by Several States Over Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations

Trenton, NJ— Attorney General Peter C. Harvey has joined with Attorneys General from 10 other states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa to formally challenge the Bush Administration on its failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of global warming.

California, two major cities and a group of prominent environmental organizations are filing separate challenges against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This suit is the latest in a series of actions that New Jersey has taken with other states to compel the Bush Administration to address the ever-increasing problem of global warming. The coordinated actions against EPA involve the largest coalition of states, cities and environmental groups to collaborate on this issue to date. While acknowledging the negative impacts of global warming, the Bush Administration has yet to take any concrete action to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

New Jersey and the other participating parties filed legal challenges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to two decisions that EPA issued on August 28. In the first ruling, EPA concluded that it has no statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This ruling expressly contradicts EPA’s conclusion - repeatedly voiced to Congress in 1998, 1999 and 2000 - that the agency does, in fact, have the legal power to regulate such emissions.

In the second ruling, EPA denied an administrative petition that several environmental groups had filed in 1999 requesting that the agency regulate greenhouse gases from cars and other “mobile sources.”

In its decision, EPA relied in part on its conclusion that EPA lacked authority to regulate greenhouse gases. EPA also cited its belief that regulating greenhouse gases is bad policy and relied in part on its separate conclusion that it is prohibited from mandating decreases in greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles by the federal law that sets fuel efficiency standards.

The states argue that EPA has clear statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, as the agency earlier concluded; that there is no prohibition on EPA’s mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars; and that the agency has failed to justify its policy of inaction.

New Jersey was among 11 states that raised their concerns about global warming in a July 2002 letter to the Bush Administration. In that letter, Attorneys General for the states identified climate change as the “most pressing environmental challenge of the 21st century.”

Pointing to a May 2002 report confirming the dangers of global warming, the state Attorneys General urged President Bush to act immediately and take a “strong national approach” to the problem. The report, U.S. Climate Action Report 2002, confirms the dangers of global climate change and projects that its primary cause, emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide produced from the combustion of fossil fuels, will increase by 43 percent by 2020.

According to the U.S. Climate Action Report, global warming can result in:

•Increased Temperatures. Average temperatures have already increased by one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, and are projected to increase by five to nine degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The increase could dramatically change weather patterns in every state and will likely destroy some fragile ecosystems.

•Rising Sea Levels. Sea levels have already risen four to eight inches over the last century and are projected to rise another 4 to 35 inches during the next century because of global warming. New Jersey’s coastline, made up primarily of low-lying barrier islands, is particularly vulnerable to the increased flooding and erosion caused by rising sea levels. Increased coastal flooding could obliterate coastal wetlands and barrier islands. EPA expects the sea level at Atlantic City to rise by 27 inches over the next century, almost double the current rate of sea level rise.

•Increased Health Risks. The effects of global warming can result in illnesses and deaths associated with temperature extremes, storms, air pollution, water contamination, and diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and rodents. A study published last year in the journal Science warns of increased risks from insect-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Higher temperatures and increased frequency of heat waves may increase the number of heat-related deaths and the incidence of heat-related illnesses. New Jersey, with its irregular, intense heat waves, is particularly susceptible, EPA has noted.

In response to the lack of initiative at the federal level, some states, including New Jersey, are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the state level. In August, Governor McGreevey and Commissioner Campbell announced that New Jersey had joined with eight other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to commence a cap and trade program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the participating states.

The 10 states that joined this new petition with New Jersey are Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Three other legal challenges are being filed in court against EPA by California; two cities, New York City and Baltimore; and a coalition of environmental groups. The environmental groups named in the fourth legal challenge include Bluewater Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Center for Technology Assessment, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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