Wednesday, December 12, 2007

California Wins Global Warming Case Brought by Auto Industry

In a significant victory in the fight to reduce global warming pollution, today the Federal District Court in Fresno dismissed the auto industry's claims that federal law barred California from enforcing it own motor vehicle greenhouse gas regulations. In a 57-page decision, Judge Anthony Ishii held that these regulations did not in any way conflict with either federal fuel economy laws or with the President's power to conduct foreign policy. Emphasizing that the Clean Air Act expressly authorizes California to regulate emissions that affect human health and the environment, Judge Ishii found that Congress did not intend that this authority be curtailed by federal fuel economy laws. Sierra Club intervened in the case, on the side of the California Air Resources Board, which had set the clean-car standards ordered by Assembly Bill 1493 of 2002, authored by Fran Pavley.

Once again a judge has found the auto industry’s desperate attempts to stay mired in outdated, dirty technology completely without merit. Today’s decision is just one more reason why EPA should stop dragging its feet and grant the waiver California needs to move forward with this vital tool to combat global warming.

Just as we said earlier this year when we celebrated a similar victory in a Vermont court, instead of the automakers thinking of excuses, it’s time for them to put their immense know-how toward solving some of our most pressing problems. This ruling should compel the U.S. automakers to make the kind of clean, efficient cars Americans want--the kind that foreign automakers have used to surge to record profits as the U.S. auto industry buckled under the weight of its gas guzzlers. This ruling is good for the environment, good for America, and, ultimately, good for the automakers.

It’s now time for the Bush Administration’s EPA to get out of the way and grant California the waiver it and other states need in order to move forward with these landmark protections.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Big Victory for National Forests

Sierra Club Victory in Ninth Circuit Deals Blow to Bush Administration’s So-Called "Healthy Forests" Initiative

Court Rules That Administration Cannot Ignore Environmental Laws to Log Forests

San Francisco, California--In the case of Sierra Club v. Bosworth, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Forest Service erred when it conducted logging projects nationwide without prior analysis of their effects on the environment.

Sierra Club and Sierra Forest Legacy (formerly named Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign) filed the suit in October 2004 challenging the Bush Administration's "Healthy Forest Initiative" rule that eliminated a 30-year-old Forest Service practice of analyzing the environmental effects of timber sales up to 1,000 acres and prescribed burns up to 4,500 acres
before allowing such projects to proceed.

Today’s ruling from the Ninth Circuit said the U.S. Forest Service erred because it:

  • Exempted from the National Environmental Policy Act a huge class of logging classified as "fuels reduction" first, and then later gathered the environmental impact data
  • Failed to assess the cumulative effects of logging 1.2 million acres per year nationwide
  • Failed to assess highly controversial and uncertain risks of impacts
  • Failed to put more specific constraints on what can be logged

Statement of Eric Huber, Senior Staff Attorney, Sierra Club

"This victory is a blow to the Bush Administration's cynical "Healthy Forests" initiative and will help protect millions of acres of national forest each year from destructive and unnecessary logging projects. This ruling will help ensure that vast swaths of our national forests are not logged without environmental reviews under the guise of forest management or fuel suppression. The Sierra Club supports forest management practices that actually seek to protect communities and our precious wild forests and minimize the risk of wildfires, but this case is just one more example of the Bush administration's disastrous overreach on environmental issues.

The courts have once again had to tell the administration that it simply cannot ignore laws--environmental and otherwise--simply because it finds them inconvenient."

Statement of Craig Thomas, Executive Director of Sierra Forest Legacy
"In California, since the adoption of the Bush Administration rule, we have witnessed the gross abuse of discretion and ramp-up of logging with limited environmental review that we feared. Logging without environmental safeguards damages our forests and the public's trust in Forest Service management."

The full opinion can be viewed here.