18 states sue EPA over greenhouse gas pollution

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eighteen states sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks, one year after the Supreme Court ruled that the agency had the power to do so.

Vehicular traffic flows on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California January 2, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The suit seeks EPA’s response to the high court’s April 2, 2007, ruling, a landmark decision seen as a sharp defeat for the Bush administration’s policy on climate change.

While acknowledging the reality of human-caused global warming, the administration has opposed across-the-board limits on carbon emissions that make the problem worse.

In addition to the states, officials from three cities and at 11 environmental groups signed the suit, which seeks action within 60 days. Environmental lawyers acknowledged a response is unlikely before President George W. Bush leaves office.

EPA chief Stephen Johnson, traveling in Australia, said after last year’s ruling that the agency would respond by the end of 2007, but did not publicly do so.

The lawsuit said the environmental agency has determined that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public welfare, and once that judgment is made, the EPA must regulate these pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Last week, Johnson announced a plan to seek public comment on how to limit these emissions, infuriating environmental advocates who noted in a conference call on Wednesday that more than 50,000 public comments had been received at the beginning of this process, nearly nine years ago.

“Once again the EPA has forced our hand, which has resulted in our taking this extraordinary measure to fight the dangers of climate change,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “The EPA’s failure to act in the face of these incontestable dangers is a shameful dereliction of duty.”

In addition to Massachusetts, the other states and cities joining the suit are: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and Washington D.C., New York City and Baltimore.

In another commemoration of the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the original case, Massachusetts v. EPA, the House of Representatives global warming committee voted to subpoena EPA’s Johnson to turn over long-sought documents on whether greenhouse pollution endangers human health and a draft plan to regulate these emissions.

The subpoena gives the agency 10 days to comply.