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EPA head urged to approve California emissions waiver: documents

[JURIST] Agents with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] urged EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson [official profile] to approve California's request for a waiver that would have allowed it to impose stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light trucks, saying that a denial could compromise the agency's integrity, according to internal documents [press release and excerpts] released Tuesday by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) [official website]. An October 2007 staff memo prepared for the head of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality to present to Johnson said that Johnson should either grant the waiver or find a compromise, saying that "it is obvious to me that there is no legal or technical justification for denying this." At a press conference [recorded video] Tuesday, Boxer said:

These documents paint a picture of an Environmental Protection Agency in crisis. They show the dedicated professional staff of the EPA working hard to do what they are paid to do by the American people - protect our health and our environment. At the same time, we see more and more evidence of Administrator Johnson ignoring the science and the facts, and discarding the advice of his professional staff.

I believe this decision will be reversed by the next President or by the courts, but the Administrator can save the taxpayers time and money, and can get us started cleaning up our air if he would simply follow the law, the facts, and the advice of his agency professionals.
In December 2007, the EPA denied [rejection letter, PDF; JURIST report] California's request for a waiver, with Johnson saying that a unified national standard for greenhouse gas regulation was preferable to a state-by-state network of regulations and pointing to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [HR 6 materials; WH fact sheet], signed into law that month by President George W. Bush. After the EPA decision, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [official websites] said they would hold hearings on the issue, and EPA General Counsel Roger Martella, Jr. issued a memo instructing EPA employees to produce all communications between the EPA and the White House [JURIST report] in response to the inquiries. Boxer said Tuesday that the EPA had not yet released these communications. AP has more.

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 [press release] in 2004, 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. In January, California filed a lawsuit [petition, PDF; JURIST report] challenging the denial.

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