[JURIST] California filed a lawsuit [petition, PDF; press release] against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday challenging the agency's decision to deny the state's request for a waiver [rejection letter, PDF; JURIST report] that would have allowed it and 16 other states following its lead to impose stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light trucks. California's Air Resources Board [official website] adopted the greenhouse gas standards in 2004 [press release], but it could not mandate them unless the EPA granted a waiver of the lighter federal Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] standards. This was the first time that the EPA denied California a waiver since Congress established the state's right to seek CAA waivers in 1967.
In an email to the AP, EPA spokesperson Jonathan Shradar argued that US President George W. Bush's plan to raise fuel economy standards to 35 mpg by 2020 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [HR 6 materials; WH fact sheet] was "a more beneficial national approach to a national problem, which establishes an aggressive standard for all 50 states - as opposed to a lower standard in California and a patchwork of other states." California maintains that its standards are higher, requiring vehicles to meet 36.8 mpg by 2016 or cut emissions by one-third. Last month, Congressional Democrats announced that they would begin a probe into whether the EPA decision was politically motivated. In a letter [PDF text] sent to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman questioned whether the agency ignored evidence in rejecting the California waiver request and asked that all documents relating to the request be turned over to the committee. At the end of December 2007, the EPA indicated that it would comply with the request [JURIST report]. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.