EPA releases justification for denying Cal greenhouse gas waiver
February 29, 2008
WASHINGTON ” The Environmental Protection Agency released long-awaited scientific justification Friday for its controversial decision blocking California and more than a dozen other states from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.
A 48-page “decision document” argues that California doesn’t have “compelling and extraordinary conditions” required under the Clean Air Act because the rest of the nation also suffers the effects of global warming.
EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, who’s faced lawsuits and angry denunciations since making the decision in December, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that legislative history shows California must have a unique problem in order to justify a federal waiver to implement a vehicle emissions law stricter than the federal government’s.
“I’m not saying that California isn’t experiencing problems as a result of global climate change. There are, in fact, other parts of the country that are actually worse,” Johnson said.
Environmentalists and California officials disagree with Johnson’s interpretation, contending that California has been granted Clean Air Act waivers in the past to deal with problems that are also happening elsewhere, such as diesel pollution.
Critics contend that California does have uniquely worse problems from global warming than other states, including wildfire risks, air pollution and water supply shortages.
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“Clearly Johnson hasn’t spent much time in California. Doesn’t he know the simple scientific fact that hotter air causes more smog?” said Frank O’Donnell, executive director of Clean Air Watch, a Washington advocacy group.
“This reads like something written up in the board room of General Motors,” O’Donnell said.
The Clean Air Act gives California special authority to regulate vehicle pollution because the state began such regulations before the federal government. But a federal waiver is required, and if California gets one, then other states can adopt California’s standards.
California’s tailpipe emissions law would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016.
Twelve other states ” Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington ” had adopted California’s tailpipe standards and the governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah had said they also planned to adopt them. The rules were under consideration elsewhere, too.
In denying the waiver request Johnson argued that a nationwide approach would be better and he said it would be provided by a new law raising fuel economy standards that was signed by President Bush in December.
California officials argued that California’s law would be stronger and act faster, but automakers applauded Johnson’s decision.