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Friday, December 21, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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State will join suit challenging emission ruling

Seattle Times environment reporter

Washington will join a planned lawsuit challenging the federal government's decision to stop states from clamping down on greenhouse gases from cars, Gov. Christine Gregoire vowed Thursday.

Gregoire called an afternoon news conference to say the state would join a suit that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised after Wednesday's announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We have to move forward and we're ready to lead as states," Gregoire said. "For them to come in now and obstruct our ability to move forward is simply wrong."

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said he would reject a waiver that California needs to impose its own emissions rules on new cars. Other states that want to follow California's lead, including Washington, were also effectively halted by the decision.

Johnson said new national fuel-mileage standards in a recently passed energy bill would provide a better, nationwide approach.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he also plans to enter the pending court battle, and Vermont and several other states are expected to as well.

In her remarks Thursday, Gregoire said the EPA's decision will make it harder for Washington to meet its goals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Gregoire last year issued an executive order to roll statewide greenhouse-gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The governor said she didn't know exactly how much of a difference the California-style limits would make versus the new federal law.

The biggest difference appears to be that the California limits would start with the 2009 model year and take full effect in 2016, versus a start of 2011 for the federal law and full effect in 2020.

Meanwhile, Seattle officials don't think the EPA decision will affect the city's efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to meet the goals of the international Kyoto treaty, said Alex Fryer, a city spokesman. The city calculated its needed progress based on an assumption that the EPA would reject the California law.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or wcornwall@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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