Senators urge GAO to investigate EPA’s emission decision

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 2/12/2008

Several U.S. senators are calling for Congress’ top investigative arm to look into the EPA’s recent decision to deny California’s request to enforce its own greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-CA; Hillary Clinton, D-NY; Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI; Joseph Lieberman, I-CT; Bernard Sanders I-VT; Benjamin Cardin, D-MD; and Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, are members of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.

On Friday, Feb. 8, the senators jointly called for the Government Accountability Office to examine EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s recent decision to deny California a waiver request so that that state – and nearly 20 others – could begin enforcing strict greenhouse gas emission standards.

The Senate Committee on EPW has closely followed the EPA’s waiver decision on California, but its members say an independent review by the Government Accountability Office would answer questions about the December decision.

The senators’ letter asked the GAO to answer whether Johnson’s decision was in line with EPA staff recommendations, who lobbied the EPA and Johnson on the matter. The senators also asked “Why did it take EPA more than two years to decide on this matter?”

“This decision is extremely important and the members of this Committee and the American people deserve answers about how and why it was made,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately the Bush administration presented only a vague and suspect legal justification for its decision. While we will continue to vigorously pursue our investigation, we believe it is important for the Government Accountability Office to complete its own, independent investigation.”

California passed Assembly Bill 32 in 2006. AB 32 calls for the state to lower greenhouse gas emission levels to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Although the state hasn’t approved new greenhouse gas-specific emission standards for heavy duty trucks, California Air Resource Board staff members are crafting proposed regulations and are considering banning all truck idling in the future to cut emissions.

A total of 19 states have reportedly approved or are preparing to approve California’s greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks, according to the Senate EPW Committee.

“There are many troubling aspects of this highly unusual decision,” the letter continued. “Internal EPA documents, reviewed by the Committee, and press reports indicate that the overwhelming evidence compiled by the professional staff at EPA with expertise in this matter was essentially ignored.”

Sanders told Johnson at a recent hearing, “If you can’t do the right thing, at least get out of the way of California, Vermont and other states. If we do not move aggressively, this planet is in danger.”

To read the senators’ letter, click here.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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