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New YOrk Times

April 28, 2006

10 States Sue E.P.A. on Emissions



ALBANY, April 27 — In the latest legal broadside against the Bush administration's policy on global warming, New York, California and eight other states sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday for refusing to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.


Attorney General Eliot Spitzer of New York, the lead plaintiff, said the agency's refusal "continues a sad course of conduct on the part of the Bush administration and reflects a disregard for science, statute and wise policy."


A similar suit involving many of the same states and led by Massachusetts was dismissed last year by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where the new lawsuit was filed. Another suit by several of the same states sought to compel power producers to reduce emissions and was dismissed last year in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Both cases are being appealed.


"This is more of the same — yet another attempt by some states and environmental groups to change U.S. climate policy through litigation," Dan Riedinger, a spokesman at the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group of power companies, said in a statement.


Such suits, Mr. Riedinger said, seek "to circumvent the ongoing policy debate in Congress, which alone has the authority to make or change federal environmental laws."


James R. Milkey, chief of the environmental protection division of the Massachusetts attorney general's office, said the new case was more narrowly focused on what has become a central policy question about global warming: whether the E.P.A. has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, the principal contributor to global warming, as a pollutant.


"We feel we have an extraordinarily strong argument on that point," Mr. Milkey said.


New York City, the District of Columbia and three environmental groups also joined in the suit, along with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.


The suit seeks to force the environmental agency to start regulating emissions of heat-trapping gases, like carbon dioxide, from power plants and to tighten regulations of conventional smog-forming pollutants. The basis for the argument is that the agency has not lived up to requirements in the Clean Air Act to ensure public health.


With 135 new coal-powered plants on the drawing board nationwide, environmental groups see tougher emission controls as an urgent need before the building of plants that can last for half a century or more. The proposed plants would "blow a hole in the world's effort to curb global warming," said Daniel Becker, director of the global warming program at the Sierra Club, a party to the suit. "A little over a third of U.S. global warming pollutants come from power plants, and the bulk of it from coal-fired power plants."


The Bush administration has argued that voluntary measures are the best way to proceed on global warming, rather than requirements on industry to reduce emissions.


"E.P.A. will review all options and make an informed decision on how to proceed," said Jennifer Wood, a spokeswoman for the agency. "E.P.A.'s climate protection programs continue to exceed the agency's greenhouse gas emissions goals and are on target to meet the president's 18 percent goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 2012."


The administration's decision not to classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant has complicated the desire of several states to regulate emissions from cars.


California is in the midst of a legal battle with automakers over the state's new law putting strict curbs on emissions from the tailpipes of cars and trucks. New York and other states are planning to mimic California's standards and have also been sued by the auto industry. The industry has been supported by the Bush administration.


Environmentalists and lawyers for the states argue that the Clean Air Act compels the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide.


"Does the Clean Air Act care about climate?" asked David Doniger, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Yeah, it says so."


The E.P.A. does not dispute global warming as a concept. Its Web site says that climate change is expected to raise sea levels and alter precipitation trends.


"Changing regional climate could alter forests, crop yields and water supplies," the agency says. "It could also affect human health, animals and many types of ecosystems."

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