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Volume 86 Issue 9 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: March 3, 2008

California Fights For Emissions Standards

Legislators battle White House, EPA chief over state's plan
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Climate Change
News Channels: Environmental SCENE

The Bush Administration and congressional Democrats are locked in a struggle over EPA's recent rejection of California's plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, has asked EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to reverse his December 2007 decision against California's plan, which would have been the nation's first greenhouse gas control measure.

Johnson denied California's request to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks just hours after President George W. Bush signed an energy bill that increases the fuel economy standard for vehicles (C&EN, Dec. 24, 2007, page 8). Johnson said the new law trumped California's request by creating a national standard for vehicle emissions.

In January, California filed suit against EPA challenging Johnson's decision. Fifteen other states that are poised to adopt California's plan for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles are also plaintiffs in the suit.

Boxer last week released internal agency documents indicating that EPA staff experts argued in favor of allowing California to go forward with its plan, which automakers vigorously opposed. In January, she had released other documents indicating that EPA staff members stated that if Johnson denied California's request and the state filed a lawsuit, the agency is "likely to lose."

Johnson's move merely delays implementation of California's plan, Boxer said at a Feb. 26 press briefing. The three presidential frontrunners-Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Barack Obama (D-Ill.)-have indicated they will grant California's request if elected, Boxer stated.

"I'm asking you to reconsider," Boxer told Johnson at a Feb. 27 hearing before her committee. "Stop us from having to expend all this money on lawsuits for something you're going to be reversed on very, very quickly."

In addition, Boxer is hammering Johnson for not turning over EPA documents that could show whether the White House, the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, or other agencies influenced Johnson's consideration of the California plan.

Johnson has steadfastly said the decision to deny the state's request was his alone. At the hearing, he deflected questions from Democrats about whether the White House counseled him on the decision.

EPA has given Boxer's committee access to about 5,000 documents, some redacted, related to the decision on the California request, Johnson said. The agency hasn't supplied some of the requested documents because it is currently consulting with other parts of the Executive Branch on whether to release them, Johnson said.

Boxer said Congress would issue subpoenas for the documents if EPA is not forthcoming.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, may issue the subpoenas on the remaining documents, congressional aides indicated. Waxman is working in parallel with Boxer to probe Johnson's decision.

 
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