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October 23, 2003
State Challenges EPA Decision on Global Warming

OLYMPIA -- Attorney General Christine Gregoire today joined several other states, cities, and environment groups in challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) failure to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act.

A petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. asks the court to review recent EPA decisions that said Congress did not provide the agency with authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the clean air law.

Washington State and other parties challenging the decisions contend that the federal government has authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and that the EPA's new policy is a reversal of the position that the agency has held since 1998.

The buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is thought to be a major contributor to global warming. While some greenhouse gases are naturally present in the atmosphere, the burning of fossil fuels for transportation, manufacturing, heating and other human activities puts significant amounts of additional greenhouse gases into the air.

"States are taking concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but a problem of this magnitude requires strong action by the federal government as well," Gregoire said. "We think the EPA should exercise its authority to preserve air quality and protect our nation's economy, environment and the health of our citizens from the dangerous effects of global warming."

Scientists say that global warming may be responsible for increasingly severe and unpredictable weather, rising sea levels that could inundate coastal areas, and respiratory and other medical problems.

At the state level, Gov. Gary Locke has asked state agencies to develop rules for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new power-generating facilities in Washington, and the state is working with Oregon and California to develop joint recommendations on regional approaches to the problem.

In August, the EPA issued two final decisions related to a petition filed by environmental groups seeking to have the EPA regulate the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from motor vehicles. In the decisions, the EPA declared that it did not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Today Washington joined 10 other states, American Samoa and the District of Columbia in filing a petition with the federal Court of Appeals seeking review of those decisions. California filed a separate petition. In addition, two other petitions were filed by the cities of New York and Baltimore, and by several major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

Gregoire said she was pleased that two other West Coast states-Oregon and California-joined Washington in challenging the EPA decisions. She noted that coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising ocean levels caused by global warming.


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