EPA Chief Denies Calif. Limit on Auto Emissions


Richard Moore

Just as our Department of War is called the 
'Defense' Department, so our Environmental 
Destruction Agency calls itself a 'Protector'.

More of the microcosm of how our system operates from top to bottom.


ps> Syriana is on the best films I've seen in a 
while. Count on Clooney to give us a bit of 
reality. All about oil, the Middle East, CIA, etc.

Original source URL:

EPA Chief Denies Calif. Limit on Auto Emissions
Rules Would Target Greenhouse Gases
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2007; A01

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator 
Stephen L. Johnson yesterday denied California's 
petition to limit greenhouse gas emissions from 
cars and trucks, overruling the unanimous 
recommendation of the agency's legal and 
technical staffs.

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 America's 
climate footprint from vehicles," Johnson said. 
"President Bush and Congress have set the bar 
high, and, when fully implemented, our federal 
fuel-economy standard will achieve significant 
benefits by applying to all 50 states."

The new mileage standard mandated by Congress is 
aimed at reducing gasoline consumption, which 
will reduce vehicles' overall "carbon footprint," 
but California's rules would target total 
greenhouse gas emissions, including those that 
stem from auto air conditioning units. Experts 
said tailpipe regulations are a more 
comprehensive way to address vehicles' 
contribution to greenhouse gases.

Johnson said that California standards would 
produce a mileage average of 33.8 mpg by 2016, 
while the new federal energy law would require an 
average fleet fuel economy of 35 mpg by 2020. But 
California officials said EPA had miscalculated, 
estimating that its emissions standard would 
achieve an average of at least 36 mpg by 2016.

Environmentalists and state officials lambasted 
Johnson's decision and pledged to sue to overturn 
it. In the past three months, federal judges in 
Vermont and California have twice rebuffed 
automakers' attempts to block state tailpipe 
regulations. The auto industry had also lobbied 
the White House and EPA to block the California 
regulation, and the Detroit News reported that 
chief executives of Ford and Chrysler met with 
Vice President Cheney last month to discuss the 

"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 

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 
California sued, "EPA likely to lose suit."

If he allowed California to proceed and 
automakers sued, the staff wrote, "EPA is almost 
certain to win."

The technical and legal staffs cautioned Johnson 
against blocking California's tailpipe standards, 
the sources said, and recommended that he either 
grant the waiver or authorize it for a three-year 
period before reassessing it.

"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 

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 California and more than a 
dozen other states seeking to limit greenhouse 
gases from motor vehicles," O'Donnell said.

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."

California, which is allowed under the Clean Air 
Act to set its own air pollution policies as long 
as it obtains an exemption from the federal 
government, had never been denied a waiver in the 
law's 37-year history.

William K. Reilly, who served as EPA 
administrator under President George H.W. Bush 
and approved nine California waivers during that 
time, questioned why the administration 
challenged the state's historical role as an 
innovator in air pollution policy.

"What I want to know from the [administration] 
is: What possible grounds would there possibly be 
to deny California this waiver?" asked Reilly, 
who co-chairs the bipartisan National Commission 
on Energy Policy, a group of energy experts. 
"There's every reason to defer to California in 
making these decisions."

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.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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