Bill Could Reverse EPA's Decision on Calif. Cars

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, announced May 21 that the committee approved S. 2555, "The Reducing Global Warming Pollution from Vehicles Act of 2008," a bill that instructs the President to sign the California waiver so that California and other states can proceed with laws to improve air quality problems from cars.

On Dec. 19, 2007, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's request for the waiver -- the first time in history that EPA had ever denied outright a request from California for a waiver to do more to cut air pollution.

Boxer said, "Administrator Johnson's decision to deny the waiver was not supported by the facts, by the law, by the science, or by precedent. Just this week we learned of more evidence that the Bush White House intervened to kill the waiver for California. Today's action in the Environment Committee brings us one step closer to giving a green light to California and the other states so they can begin tackling global warming pollution from vehicles."

On May 19, the committee obtained new documents and testimony showing that EPA career staff unanimously supported granting California's request for a waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks. EPA Administrator Johnson also supported granting the petition, at least in part, until he communicated with the White House.

On May 20, the committee uncovered details of White House involvement in EPA's regulation of ozone on the eve of a court-imposed deadline, forcing EPA staff to scrap a standard supported by its independent panel and to perform "emergency rewrites" to the regulation. Documents obtained by the committee show that EPA staff raised serious concerns about the merits and legality of the decision.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), an original co-sponsor of the bill, said, "The time has come to take the decision on California's waiver out of the hands of the EPA. The senior leadership of the EPA has failed to demonstrate that it has the integrity or independence to make decisions based on sound science. So this legislation would help right the wrong that blocked California from implementing its groundbreaking law to reduce tailpipe emissions."

Fourteen other states -- Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- have adopted California's standards, or are in the process of adopting them. Another four -- Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Utah -- are moving toward adopting the California standards.

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