Rules Would Target Greenhouse Gases
By Juliet Eilperin, The
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson yesterday denied
The decision set in motion a legal battle that EPA's lawyers expect to lose and demonstrated the Bush administration's determination to oppose any mandatory measures specifically targeted at curbing global warming pollution. A total of 18 states, representing 45 percent of the nation's auto market, have either adopted or pledged to implement California's proposed tailpipe emissions rules, which seek to cut vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016.
In a telephone news conference last night, Johnson said he thinks that the higher fuel-economy standards and increased renewable-fuel requirements in the energy bill President Bush signed into law yesterday will do more to address global warming than imposing tailpipe rules in individual states.
"The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules, to reduce
The new mileage standard mandated by Congress is aimed at reducing gasoline consumption, which will reduce vehicles' overall "carbon footprint," but
Johnson said that
Environmentalists and state officials lambasted Johnson's decision and pledged to sue to overturn it. In the past three months, federal judges in
"By refusing to grant California's waiver request for its new motor vehicle standards to control greenhouse gas emissions, the administration has ignored the clear and very limited statutory criteria upon which this decision was to be based," said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents officials in 48 states. "Instead, it has issued a verdict that is legally and technically unjustified and indefensible."
EPA's lawyers and policy staff had reached the same conclusion, said several agency officials familiar with the process. In a PowerPoint presentation prepared for the administrator, aides wrote that if Johnson denied the waiver and
If he allowed
The technical and legal staffs cautioned Johnson against blocking
"Nobody told the administration they support [a denial], and it has the most significant legal challenges associated with it," said one source, in an interview several hours before Johnson's announcement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak for the agency. "The most appropriate action is to approve the waiver."
Asked about his aides' recommendations, Johnson said, "My staff provided me a range of options, with a lot of pros and cons with each of these options."
Frank O'Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, noted that Johnson's announcement came shortly after yesterday's bipartisan celebration at the White House of the new energy law.
"Only hours after having a love fest over the energy bill, the Bush administration turned it into a hate fest for
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, vowed to scrutinize Johnson's ruling. The EPA has yet to produce the "decision documents" it customarily presents to outline its justification for a new ruling.
"EPA's decision ignores the law, science and common sense,"
Waxman said in a statement. "This is a policy dictated by politics and ideology, not facts. The committee will be investigating how and why this decision was made."
William K. Reilly, who served as EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush and approved nine
"What I want to know from the [administration] is: What possible grounds would there possibly be to deny
In his telephone call with reporters, Johnson said this waiver decision was "different" because climate change affects the entire world.
"It is a global problem that requires a clear national solution," he said. When asked whether the energy law represents the administration's full response to the challenge of global warming, he replied, "Certainly for motor vehicles this is a comprehensive solution."
Staff researchers Karl Evanzz and Meg Smith contributed to this report.