PORTLAND - Gov. Ted Kulongoski said Wednesday he will take any legal action necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles despite a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to reject California restrictions that Oregon has adopted.
Kulongoski and fellow Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington led efforts to put all three Pacific Coast states on the same emission standard for autos, trucks and SUVs.
But the EPA refused Wednesday to grant a waiver to California that would have allowed those restrictions to be put into effect, also blocking other states.
"Today's decision by the EPA is very disappointing for Oregon and our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming," Kulongoski said.
But he said it "does not diminish my commitment to combat climate change and I will move forward with any legal or administrative means necessary to make sure Oregon can set its own tailpipe emission standards."
Gregoire also was critical of the administration and the EPA decision, and said Washington state would move forward.
"This is a failure of leadership that places our economy and our environment at risk," she said. "Washington can't wait for permission to do the right thing for our environment and future generations."
The Western Environmental Law Center, which has battled the Bush administration for the tougher emission standards, also planned to go to court to force the EPA to grant the waiver.
"It's beyond irresponsible," said Dan Galpern, staff attorney for the center, based in Eugene.
He noted the restrictions were modest and designed to allow auto manufacturers to meet the tougher standards in California, Oregon and Washington with "off-the-shelf technology" that would only slightly increase the cost of cars or trucks.
Galpern said the Bush administration is passing up a chance to immediately reduce global warming by delaying the greenhouse gas emissions limits in California and the 16 other states that want tougher regulations.
"They didn't even have to do it themselves," Galpern said. "They could have allowed the states to follow through with California's initiative."
Tom Geiger, spokesman for the Washington Environmental Council in Seattle, said auto and truck emission limits especially are important to the Northwest because they're the major source of greenhouse gas pollution, unlike other areas of the country where those gases also are produced by coal-fired power plants or other power generation.
Nearly half the electricity in the Northwest comes from Bonneville Power Administration hydroelectricity supplied by Columbia River Basin dams.
"We have a lot of clean hydro power here so electricity production is less polluting than in other states across the country," Geiger said. "We have to address the pollution from cars and trucks."
Galpern said the environmental law center will join any challenge to the EPA filed by the attorneys general of the states or it will file a challenge on its own.