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EPA defends California auto emissions waiver rejection before Senate panel

[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] will not overturn its rejection [press release; JURIST report] of California's request for a waiver that would have allowed it to impose stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light trucks, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson testified [recorded video] Thursday in front of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works [official website]. Johnson reiterated the EPA's opinion that it is preferable to implement a single, unified national standard for greenhouse gas regulation, as opposed to a state-by-state network of regulations, and pointed to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [HR 6 materials; WH fact sheet], signed into law in December by President George W. Bush. The act will require automakers to reach an industry-wide average fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs and small trucks of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Earlier this week, the EPA denied a request [JURIST report] for full explanation of the emissions waiver rejection. AP has more.

Johnson's testimony at the hearing [committee materials] was requested by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) [official profile] after her environmental committee opened an investigation into the EPA's rejection. According to excerpts of documents [text] turned over to the Senate Committee by the EPA following the waiver rejection, EPA officials had told Johnson that California had met the "compelling and extraordinary conditions" requisite to justify the federal waiver, in contrast to the EPA's December statement when it denied the waiver that California didn't have "compelling and extraordinary conditions." Boxer responded to the documents, saying:

As our investigation of the EPA record continues, it is clear that EPA's own experts told Administrator Johnson that California's case for the waiver is solid. His decision was not supported by the facts, by the law, by the science, or by precedent. [Thursday's] hearing provides an important opportunity to closely question the Administrator on this unconscionable decision. I look forward to the reversal of this decision as soon as possible.
The California standards would have required car manufacturers to cut emissions by 25 percent from cars and light trucks, and 18 percent from SUVs, starting with the 2009 model year. California's Air Resources Board [official website] adopted the greenhouse gas standards in 2004 [press release], but it could not mandate them unless the EPA granted a waiver of the lighter Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] standards. California is the only state permitted to seek a waiver under the CAA, but if granted, other states have the option of choosing between the federal standards and those of California. At least 11 states had indicated that they would follow the California standard. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said the state will appeal the decision [statement text]. AP has more.

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