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July 30, 2007 9:30 AM, EDT

Senators Demand EPA Issue California Waiver

‘Get on with it,’ Lautenberg Tells Agency Chief

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the July 30 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Democratic senators last week pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a waiver to California and other states wanting to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from motor vehicles.

“It’s inexcusable,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said during a July 26 hearing regarding EPA’s two-year lag in making a decision. Boxer is chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled EPA must reconsider its position on regulating greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, something it has previously not done (4-9, p. 1). California first applied for its waiver in 2005, but EPA has said it would not rule before the end of the year.

At a hearing last week, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said the agency was reviewing “an unprecedented number of comments” on the waiver and “is performing rigorous analysis.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said both EPA’s initial delay and its current review process “amounts to foot-dragging.”

“Get on with it,” Lautenberg said to Johnson during the hearing.

California is one of about a dozen states that have asked EPA for permission to regulate carbon emissions from motor vehicles. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has said California would sue EPA in October if the waiver is still pending. Several other states have indicated they would join that suit.

After Johnson’s testimony, Boxer urged those states to press forward with their litigation.

“What you have said here really alarms me, and I want to send a message to the governors out there that are planning on suing [EPA] to go ahead and move forward,” she said. “You have said nothing that makes me feel comfortable.”

Boxer also said that she feared EPA would reject the waiver under the cover of an executive order by President Bush to cut greenhouse emissions, but “really no action is required.”

However, the ranking minority member of the committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said he was “disturbed that we are having this hearing today.”

Inhofe said Johnson had told the committee “EPA would conduct a thorough process to make a decision in an expeditious and timely manner, [and] EPA has met this commitment so far and there is no indication
that it will not continue to do so.”

During his statement, Inhofe, who is an opponent of efforts by California and other states to act on climate change, weighed in against the waiver.

“California is not experiencing global warming; the state is experiencing global cooling,” he said. “In fact, temperatures in California are lower today than average temperatures since the beginning of the 20th century.”

Also during the hearing, Boxer chided the Department of Transportation for opposing the waiver on the grounds it would undermine the national system of corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards.

Boxer said she was “very troubled” that DOT lobbied members of Congress to reject the waiver, calling it “an unprecedented use of taxpayer dollars to tilt the decision-making process of another agency.”