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White House claims executive privilege in EPA emissions inquiry

[JURIST] The Bush administration on Friday invoked executive privilege [JURIST news archive] in refusing to turn over documents to the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [official website] now investigating what it claims to be a politically-motivated decision [JURIST report] by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] to deny California permission to implement its own vehicle emission standards. Administration officials have refused to respond to subpoenas for documents concerning White House intervention in EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson’s December 2007 decision to overrule EPA officials [JURIST report] in favor of granting California and 17 other states permission to mandate the reduction of vehicle emissions by 30 percent by 2016. The Oversight Committee held off on scheduled contempt-of-Congress proceedings against the EPA following the administration’s claim of executive privilege. The White House made public a June 19th letter [text] by Attorney General Michael Mukasey stating that the release of internal documents "could inhibit the candor of future deliberations among the president's staff."

The California emission standards would have required car manufacturers to cut emissions by 25 percent from cars and light trucks, and 18 percent from SUVs, beginning 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. In December 2007, the EPA Administrator told reporters that the White House prefers a single unified national standard to a state-by-state network of regulations, pointing to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [HR 6 materials; WH fact sheet]. This is the first time that the EPA has denied California a waiver since Congress established the state's right to seek Clean Air Act (CAA) waivers in 1967. AP has more.

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