Ahnuld’s Folly: California Sues the EPA

By January 3, 2008Global Warming

California has just filed the expected suit against the EPA, joined by 14 other states, demanding a waiver so the state can regulate vehicle emissions for greenhouse gases. A recent, smart column in The New York Post addressed the issue, saying thank goodness that the EPA rejected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s regulatory grasp. Fighting localized smog is different than addressing global warming, correctly argues Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation — a point we also made here.

Dalmia also makes it clear that Schwarzenegger’s favored solution — massive increases in fuel-efficiency standards — is simply not attainable:

California’s proposed fuel-economy standards became especially redundant after President Bush signed the new energy bill into law last week. This will require automakers to raise their fuel-economy standards by 40 percent – to an industry-wide average of 35 miles per gallon – by 2020.

Schwarzenegger doesn’t agree; he’s threatening to sue the EPA to overturn its decision. His rules would force automakers to bump up their fuel efficiency 23 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2016 – the equivalent of 33.8 mpg.

This is an impossible task. The federal standards will be tough enough for automakers to deliver without compromising on space, safety, power and (above all) low prices – all things that consumers value more than gas mileage. There is simply no technology now available that can combine everything that consumers want with the stipulated gas mileage.

We don’t pretend that reason will return: Schwarzenegger’s rhetoric is outlandish — he called the Administration’s decision “unconscionable” — and Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants an investigation of the EPA’s decision-making, so we’ll see this policy dispute turned into a weapon against the Administration.

They are exceeding their reach. The CAFE standards agreed upon in the just-completed congressional “energy bill” were the result of hard-fought policy disagreements, played out on a national scale — not a single-state dictate, achieved through regulation and litigation. The result is one that embraces compromise, trade-offs and attainable goals — that is, the real world, not the utopia that Schwarzenegger and his allies seek to achieve through dictates and lawsuits.

Schwarzenegger’s news release is here. The suit was filed in the 9th Circuit, so you can expect judicial activism.

UPDATE (2:45 p.m.): Law professor Jonathan Adler discusses the venue question in this Volokh Conspiracy post. These kind of cases are normally filed in the D.C. circuit.

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