October 23, 2003

OCTOBER 23, 2003



            Attorneys General from 12 states today joined with three major metropolitan cities, one island government and several prominent environmental groups to formally challenge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its failure to regulate greenhouse gas pollutants, the leading cause of global warming.

            Today's legal challenge – taken by the largest coalition of states, local governments, and environmental groups to collaborate on this issue to date – is the latest effort to compel the Bush Administration to address the growing problem of global warming. While acknowledging the negative impacts of global warming, the Bush Administration has yet to take any concrete action to significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollutants. In August the EPA issued a ruling declaring that it had no legal authority to regulate such emissions, abruptly reversing earlier positions taken by the agency . With each passing year, the problem only gets worse.

            “As is evidenced by the wide range of governments and environmental groups who have signed on today’s legal challenge, global warming is no longer some abstract idea far off in the future — it’s a serious threat of growing concern to the public,” Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said. “Five months ago, Massachusetts joined with two other New England states in suing the Bush Administration over its failure to take action. Today, 12 states, three major metropolitan cities – including New York City, home to 8 million people – the island government of American Samoa, and virtually every major environmental group in the country are calling on the EPA to act.”

            AG Reilly added, “This is a watershed event in the fight to stop global warming.”

            “The EPA is ignoring the clear and growing evidence of real harm done by global warming,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. “The Administration's own studies show how greenhouse gas pollution causes disease, extreme weather, destruction of shoreline and loss of critical wetlands and estuaries. Connecticut will not allow the Bush Administration to cast aside scientific fact as a concession to its friends and campaign contributors in the energy industry.”

            “We believe the plain language of the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide,” Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said. “It is well accepted in the scientific community that emissions of this leading greenhouse gas are contributing to global warming.  We are already seeing its effects, and EPA itself predicts that the problems associated with atmospheric warming will intensify in the years to come. The agency must act now to protect the public health and welfare from this threat.”

            “The Bush Administration erroneously claims that it lacks the statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to address the very real threat that greenhouse gases and global warming pose to our environment, our health and our future,” New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said.  “In fact, two prior EPA General Counsel have said EPA does have such authority.  What we have is not a lack of authority, but a complete abdication by EPA of its responsibility to protect the environment.”

            “Global warming threatens all aspects of the environment in Illinois, from adversely affecting our $8 billion agriculture industry to causing heat waves, droughts and flooding,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “We owe it to future generations to act decisively and begin to address the causes of global warming before it is too late.”

            “I am in solidarity with the environmental groups and the other states and cities who have joined us to protect our environment from harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said. “We need a healthy environment now and for future generations.  If we do not prevent further global warming now it may be too late.  We simply want the EPA to do its job---protect our environment.”

            “The vacuum of leadership on global warming by the Bush Administration is a betrayal of the best interests of the American people,” New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said. “This failure to act is harming public health and the environment and will continue to do so for generations to come.  With no leadership from Washington, our only recourse is to turn to the courts for relief.”

            “An ounce of action on the part of the Bush Administration would be worth a ton of talk,” Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch said. “On the one hand, in May of 2002, the administration said, 'Yes, carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming.' But, on the other hand, in August of 2003, the administration's own EPA concluded that carbon dioxide is not an air pollutant and, therefore, cannot be regulated. Because the United States is already dealing with the harmful effects of global warming, the American people want less talk and more action now.”

             “It's time we faced up to the reality that global climate change is a very real issue and that carbon dioxide emissions are at the heart of the problem,” Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said. “EPA does the nation a disservice by pretending that it has no authority to regulate this harmful pollutant.”

            “It is important for the District to join this action because greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide from vehicles, contribute considerably to local air quality control problems,” District of Columbia Corporation Counsel General Robert J. Spagnoletti said. “Greenhouse gases pose a significant risk to human health and environment, and EPA must address this issue.”

            “The U.S. EPA's decision to not regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and that these emissions technically don't even count as air pollutants, is flat wrong, disturbing and dangerous to the health and safety of our citizens,” California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.  “Unfortunately, this is what we have come to expect from a White House that dresses up as ‘Clear Skies' policies that will keep our air dirty.”

            On August 28,  the EPA issued two rulings declaring that the agency does not have statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. These rulings contradict earlier testimony and statements made by the EPA to Congress in 1998, 1999 and 2000 stating that the agency does in fact have the legal power to regulate such pollutants. Many of the environmental groups that submitted the original global warming petition in 1999, including the International Center for Technology Assessment and Greenpeace, are also challenging the EPA in court today.

            Identifying climate change as the “most pressing environmental challenge of the 21st century,” Attorneys General from 11 states first raised concerns about global warming in a July 2002 letter to the Bush Administration. Pointing to a federal report, released in 2002 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 - 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. Rising sea levels could cause more coastal flooding, and will likely obliterate coastal wetlands and barrier islands.

            Increased Health Risks. Global warming can result in illnesses and deaths associated with temperature extremes, storms and other heavy precipitation events, air pollution, water contamination, and diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and rodents. A 2002 report released by

the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that 154,000 deaths were attributed to global warming in 2000. Another study published last year in the journal Science warns of increased risks from insect-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.

            In response to the lack of initiative at the federal level, several states are taking steps to

reduce greenhouse gas pollutants at the state level.  Massachusetts adopted regulations in 2001 designed to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from power plants and New Hampshire recently enacted  "cap and trade" legislation. In May, the Maine legislature enacted a bill that directs the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a long-term climate action plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010, and at least 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. In 2002,  California adopted a law that will lead to the "maximum feasible" reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

            As part of a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative convened by New York, nine northeastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) are developing a cap and trade program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Most states have enacted legislation or regulation, or commenced litigation, to enhance energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

            The 11 states that signed on to today's petitions are Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. American Samoa and the District of Columbia also signed on to the states’ petitions and California is filing separately.

            Two cities, New York City and Baltimore, are also formally challenging the EPA today. Several major environmental groups are also filing separate petitions. The environmental groups bringing that legal action are Bluewater Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, International 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 US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

            Today's legal challenges were filed in United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.                                                

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