California and 15 other states returned fire in the brewing war with the White House over California’s Clean Car Act. On December 19th, Stephen L. Johnson, Bush’s man in charge of the EPA, explained that the EPA was denying California’s waiver request:
EPA has considered and granted previous waivers to California for standards covering pollutants that predominantly affect local and regional air quality. In contrast, the current waiver request for greenhouse gases is far different; it presents numerous issues that are distinguishable from all prior waiver requests. Unlike other air pollutants covered by previous waivers, greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature. Greenhouse gases contribute to the problem of global climate change, a problem that poses challenges for the entire nation and indeed the world. Unlike pollutants covered by the other waivers, greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment in California and elsewhere regardless of where the emissions occur. In other words, this challenge is not exclusive or unique to California and differs in a basic way from the previous local and regional air pollution problems addressed in prior waivers.
Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, the Clean Air Act does not allow any reason to be used in denying California waiver requests, and he does not here appear to be citing anything relevant to the law. Moreover the logic of Mr. Johnson’s rejection is not supportable. California and the states that plan to adopt its vehicle standards represent approximately 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and total more than those of Germany, Japan, or India. Reducing emissions in these sixteen states will make a difference.
Mr. Johnson’s attempt at rationalization is unlikely to stand; as Janet Wilson reported in the LA Times, Mr. Johnson’s staff concluded the EPA would lose a legal challenge by California. It appears the purpose of Mr. Johnson’s action is simply to use the court system to delay enforcement of the Clean Car Act. On Wednesday, California responded in the U.S. Ninth Circuit court of Appeals. The question now is how long it will take the Ninth Circuit to rule, and whether the EPA appeals to the Supreme Court.
The House Commtttee On Oversight And Government Reform (headed by Representative Henry Waxman, D-CA) has opened an investigation into Mr. Johnson’s rejection and requested all relevant documents, including correspondance between the White House and the EPA.
The states joining California’s lawsuit are Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
– Earl K.