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US House committee issues subpoena for EPA-White House communications

[JURIST] The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] issued a subpoena [press release] Wednesday to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] to turn over documents relating to White House involvement in the EPA decision to deny California's request for a greenhouse emissions waiver in December 2007 [JURIST report]. In a statement, Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) [official website] said:

The Committee has found evidence that EPA officials met with the White House regarding California's motor vehicle regulations. Subsequently, EPA blocked California from moving forward with its landmark program to address climate change. Unfortunately, EPA has refused to disclose the substance and extent of its communications with the White House. The Committee must have these documents in order to understand how the agency's decision was made.
In December 2007, the EPA denied California's waiver request, with EPA Administrator Stephen L. 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. California filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in January to challenge the denial. In February, internal EPA documents [press release and excerpts] revealed that agents with the EPA had urged Johnson to approve the waiver request [JURIST report].

The California standards would have required car manufacturers to cut emissions by 25 percent for cars and light trucks, and 18 percent for 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. This is the first time that the EPA has denied California a waiver since Congress established the state's right to seek CAA waivers in 1967. AP has more.

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