Expect some sparks in Washington today. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson will be sizzling in the hot seat as he tries to explain to U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee why he overruled his staff in denying California a waiver allowing it to regulate carbon tailpipe emissions.
Adding insult to injury, the EPA also heavily censored the internal documents provided to the committee in advance of today’s hearings.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the committee, is not in a good mood. "This unbelievable brush-off by the EPA only makes me more determined to get to the truth."
EPA staff advised Johnson in writing last October that “California continues to have compelling and extraordinary conditions," such as wildfires and coastal cities at risk from climate change that would justify a waiver allowing it to develop its own regulations.
This same document correctly predicted that California would sue the EPA if the waiver was turned down and that the federal agency would be “likely to lose”. Staffers also told their boss that if the waiver was granted, the EPA would likely instead be sued by automakers, but the EPA would almost certainly win in court.
Interestingly, records show that auto executives met with Dick Cheney and provided documents to the White House arguing against the waiver request.
What’s at stake goes far beyond California or cars. Fifteen other states are so frustrated with lack of leadership from Washington that they are planning to follow California’s lead and adopt much stricter emissions standards than those proposed by Bush – assuming that California is eventually granted a waiver from EPA.
Of course the reason that California, and the other states representing 150 million Americans, need to write their own legislation is because Washington is doing almost nothing about regulating CO2.
Last year, the EPA committed to make a formal determination by the end of 2007 on whether carbon emissions threaten public health or welfare – the first step in regulating CO2 under the Clean Air Act.
Considering that Johnson is a Bush appointment, it is not surprising that the deadline came and went without any action. Regulating CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act is can of worms the oil lobby would prefer to stay firmly closed.
The growing rebellion by State governments fighting for meaningful carbon regulation gets more interesting every day. A letter sent yesterday by California and seventeen other states and local governments stated that "the EPA is unreasonably delaying" the procedural steps necessary for issuing regulations under the Clean Air Act..
"The Artic is melting faster than ever before, yet the EPA stubbornly refuses to do its job," said California Attorney General Brown.
Keep on eye on today’s Senate hearings. Mr. Johnson could be in for a very unpleasant day.
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