EPA will turn over greenhouse gas documents to Congress

| 12/28/2007

For almost two years, California has waited for the U.S. EPA to OK the state’s greenhouse gas standards. When the answer came back “no,” environmentally active politicians wanted to know why not.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency said this week that they will turn over all documents related to the agency’s thwarting of California’s greenhouse gas emission law to Congress. The law would affect new cars and light trucks.

According to The Associated Press, the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility leaked a memo from the EPA’s general counsel telling employees to preserve all documents tied to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s mid-December decision to deny a request from California officials.

The California officials requested a waiver from the EPA so that they could begin enforcing greenhouse gas emission standards for 2009 and newer model cars sold in the Golden State. The law doesn’t affect heavy-duty trucks, but could be a sign of things to come for trucking engine regulations.

The enforcement of the tougher standards is part of a strategy to return total emissions in the state back to 1990 levels by the year 2020. California has special authority to address the state’s pollution problems under the federal Clean Air Act, although it must obtain permission from the EPA for certain actions.

Johnson’s decision marked the first denial among more than 50 waiver requests California has made.

Two California Democrats in Congress – Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Henry Waxman – have questioned whether the EPA administrator’s decision was politically influenced by President Bush and others in his administration.

During the summer of 2007, Waxman revealed his own investigation that showed Transportation Secretary Mary Peters had privately lobbied sympathetic governors to influence Johnson’s decision.

EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood confirmed the memo’s existence to The AP, and said it was issued in response to congressional questions regarding Johnson’s decision.

CARB Spokesman Stanley Young told Land Line on Thursday, Dec. 27, that California officials plan to file a civil suit to contest the EPA’s decision “as soon as possible.”

Does the agency hope next year’s presidential election will bring about a change in the EPA’s stance?

“We’re hopeful that the present administration changes its stance,” Young said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer