California, other states bash GOP-led plan to block EPA greenhouse gas rules

California and several other states have leapt into the Senate fray over climate change.

State officials on Tuesday attacked a GOP-led measure that would scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) power to impose greenhouse gas rules, alleging it would upend a major auto efficiency and emissions pact reached last year between states, the White House and automakers.

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The 2009 pact created a joint national vehicle mileage and greenhouse gas standard for model years 2012-2016. California and the roughly dozen other states that had adopted California’s auto emissions rules agreed to defer to the national plan.

But the deal is caught up in a big fight over EPA’s far more controversial plans to regulate emissions from power plants, refineries and other stationary sources. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is pushing a resolution that would block EPA’s authority to impose emissions rules under the Clean Air Act.

Murkowski is worried about the economic effects of those planned stationary source rules.

But in a letter to Senate Democratic and GOP leaders Wednesday, environmental officials from California and eight of the states following its lead say the resolution is bad news for the auto deal.

“We believe the Murkowski Resolution would prevent the federal program for passenger vehicle GHG standards from being finalized,” the state officials write.

It notes that the “nationally harmonized state-federal program has been widely praised by the automobile industry, environmental organizations, labor unions, states, the Obama administration and many members of Congress.”

The Transportation Department and EPA plan to issue final rules in March to implement the joint mileage and emissions standard.


The states say that if the national plan is scuttled, all bets are off. California and the other states could revert to the state-level emissions rules.

“Although the resolution does not affect our states' independent authority under the Clean Air Act to separately adopt and enforce the existing California GHG standards, we believe that the entire nation would benefit from the cleaner vehicles, greater energy security and consumer savings that a long-overdue federal program will provide,” the letter notes.

Officials from California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington signed the letter. The White House is making the same arguments, alleging the Murkowski plan would hurt Detroit automakers.

Murkowski’s resolution has 40 backers, including three Democrats, and cannot be filibustered. It could come to the floor next month, although even if it passed, it would have to come up in the House and also faces a White House veto.


Update: The letter from the states was sent Tuesday. I originally wrote that it was Wednesday.

This story was updated at 10:10 a.m.