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Spat over greenhouse gas

WASHINGTON Gov. Jim Douglas and 11 of his colleagues last week objected to the Bush administrations latest effort to prevent Vermont and other states from adopting tough greenhouse gas emissions standards. In a letter to Congress, Douglas and 11 other governors said the proposed federal fuel-economy standards issued this week on Earth Day by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was a cynical attempt to unilaterally rewrite the Clean Air Act and claim authority over greenhouse gas emissions. While the higher mileage standards were initially welcomed by some environmentalists, the NHTSA also essentially wiped out Californias landmark greenhouse emissions regulations, burying the language near the end of its 417-page document. In passing the Energy Independence and Security Act, Congress expressly provided that increasing fuel economy standards would not limit the authority of existing laws and regulations states the governors letter to Congress. Yet DOT (Department of Transportation) has taken the charge given it by Congress to issue new fuel-economy rules and used it to pose a radical redefinition of federal law that would sabotage crucial provisions of the Clean Air Act. Gov. Douglas also joined his colleagues in sending a letter to President Bush, which asserted that states must take this action because the federal government has not adequately responded to this urgent threat. The proposed rule-making by the NHSTA undermines the cooperative federalism principles embodied in the Clean Air Act, and is an end-run around 40 years of precedents under that law, the letter continues. Vermont was among the first of 15 states to adopt Californias limits and has signed on to each of Californias appeals since 2002. In a decisive victory last year, a federal court judge in Vermont said that the state rules do not conflict with federal mileage standards. In all, the 16 states represent 40 percent of nations population. The governor pledged again to continue the fight for states rights. Vermont and other states are doing what we know is best for our economies and environment, said Douglas. Vermont will weigh in on the proposed rulemaking, and if necessary, we will continue the legal battles to make sure states have the right to tackle climate change. Douglas was joined by the governors of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington.

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