Ca. Atty. Gen. Brown To Sue EPA For Failing To Regulate Ship, Aircraft And Industrial Emissions

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

LOS ANGELES--California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced California's plan to sue the U.S. EPA for continuing to “wantonly ignore its duty” to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from ships, aircraft, and construction and agricultural equipment.

“Ships, aircraft and industrial equipment burn huge quantities of fossil fuel and cause massive greenhouse gas pollution yet President Bush stalls with one bureaucratic dodge after another,” Attorney General Brown said. “Because Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency continues to wantonly ignore its duty to regulate pollution, California is forced to seek judicial action.”

Under federal law and the landmark Supreme Court decision Massachusetts v. EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency is authorized to regulate greenhouse gases from a wide range of vehicles including ocean-going vessels, aircraft and agricultural, construction and industrial equipment. Invoking such authority, Attorney General Brown formally petitioned the EPA--in October 2007, December 2007 and January 2008--to initiate appropriate regulatory action.

In the face of Brown’s petitions, the EPA has done nothing but issue a pathetically weak “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” on July 11, 2008. The EPA’s proposal contains hundreds of pages of discussion and facts but never once states that greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare--the legal foundation for fashioning regulations. Brown said that ignoring California’s petitions violates the Clean Air Act which requires the agency to adopt standards for greenhouse gases.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is given 180 days to respond with appropriate regulation action. If the agency does not issue timely regulations for aircraft, ocean-going vessels and nonroad engines, California can and will sue the federal government for unreasonable delay. The lawsuit will be based on the following:

* EPA’s failure to make explicit findings that industrial equipment, ships and aircraft emit greenhouse gas pollution that endangers public health or welfare
* EPA’s failure to adopt timely regulations to control such emissions

President Bush blocked EPA’s original plan to make a formal finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare. Recently, congressional investigations have found that White House staff signed off on EPA’s “endangerment finding” in November 2007. Subsequently, White House officials told EPA to cancel the finding.

“If President Bush was serious about America’s dangerous and growing foreign oil dependency, he would forthwith direct EPA to do its job and regulate greenhouse gases,” Attorney General Brown said.

Nonroad engines, ships and aircrafts emit as much greenhouse gases as 270 million cars, more than the entire number of registered vehicles in the United States. The following background information details the massive energy consumption and negative environmental effects of ocean-going vessels, aircraft and nonroad engines.


The world’s relatively small fleet of large ocean-going vessels, about 90,000, emits approximately three percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Ocean-going vessels in total emit more CO2 emissions than any nation in the world except the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, India and Germany. These emissions are projected to increase nearly 75 percent during the next 20 years.

EPA’s own recent proposal states that marine vessels that purchased fuel in the U.S. emitted 84.2 million metric tons of CO2 in 2006, or 3.9 percent of the total U.S. mobile source CO2 emissions.

The United Nations International Maritime Organization has authority under international treaties to establish pollution standards for vessels but has to date failed to adopt controls on greenhouse gas emissions. The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee recently planned to inventory greenhouse gases by 2009 but made no commitment to regulate such emissions. Attorney General Brown says that ocean-going vessels have a right to innocent passage under international law but that right does not include polluting the air or water near in California.


According EPA data, aircraft contributed three percent of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions and 12 percent of the transportation sector emissions in 2005. The Federal Aviation Administration expects domestic aircraft emissions to increase 60 percent by 2025.

Aviation’s contribution to global warming is greater than other major greenhouse gas emission sources because aircraft release emissions at high altitudes. For example, when nitrous oxide is emitted at high altitudes it generates greater concentrations of ozone than when it is released at ground-level. Brown says that because aviation injects greenhouse gas pollution at high altitudes—right where these emissions have a heightened negative impact—the EPA must take action to curb these emissions.

There are currently no greenhouse gas emissions controls on aircraft and only limited controls for some conventional pollutants such as carbon monoxide. Last year, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, passed a resolution to set international emissions reduction agreements but the organization has taken no additional action to further this goal.


Millions of industrial machines in mines, on farms, and at construction emitted 220 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2007—an amount equivalent to the emissions from 40 million cars. Mining and construction equipment accounted for 32 percent of these emissions, followed by agricultural and industrial equipment. According to the California Air Resources Board, there are approximately 17.8 million of these machines and engines in California.

The EPA has refused to regulate emissions from nonroad engines, aircraft and ocean-going vessels despite unassailable evidence of global warming and dangerous foreign oil dependency. Last week the U.S. Climate Change Science Program's issued a report on global warming’s devastating effects which include more frequent and intense hurricanes, heat waves, and flooding. In California, where hydropower comprises approximately 15 percent of in-state energy production, diminishing snowmelt flowing through dams will decrease the potential for hydropower production by up to 30 percent by the end of the century.

Other states, local governments and agencies which joined California today in warning the EPA of an impending lawsuit include Connecticut, Oregon, New York City, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. National environmental groups filing similar petitions include Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center.

California’s notice of intent to sue the EPA is attached.

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