Waxman, Markey Go After EPA's Supreme Court Avoidance

Posted by Warming Law Wed, 12 Mar 2008 21:30:00 GMT

Tomorrow morning, the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence will be holding a hearing on the implications of Massachusetts v. EPA nearly one year later. Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) plans to question EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on why he’s delayedaction on the EPA’s remand (which might result in another lawsuit). Committee members will also hear from a panel that includes Kansas Secretary of Health and the Environment Roderick Bremby, who made national headlines this fall by utilizing his legal authority under state law to deny permits for two new coal-fired power plants—citing the growing scientific consensus surrounding warming-related impacts and the Court’s ruling in Mass v. EPA to justify his landmark decision. 

The hearing WILL NOT be broadcast online (though it is being videotaped), but Warming Law will be in attendance and might be able to liveblog the proceedings, and will report back later regardless. We’ll be particularly noting whether any members decide to take up the "common sense questions" proposed today as talking points by the Heritage Foundation, which hyperbolically warns that an endangerment finding for CO2 would require the EPA [to] completely de-industrialize the United States." Heritage and the Competitive Enterprise Institute—which has similarly argued that an EPA global warming program would amount to "policy terrorism"—have actively taken credit for Johnson’s recent decision to suddenly halt work on an endangerment finding.

Amidst such boasts of outside influence on EPA, Markey’s counterpart on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the indomitable Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), has started investigating the White House’s apparent interference in short-circuiting an endangerment finding. In a letter sent to Johnson today, Waxman notes on-the-record conversations with senior EPA officials that—combined with Johnson’s public statements up through the last couple of weeks—depict a process that was suddenly halted as it neared completion:

Multiple senior EPA officials [cited directly in this letter] have told the Committee on the record that after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, you assembled a team of 60 to 70 EPA officials to determine whether carbon diioxide emissions endanger healt hand welfare and, if so, to develop regulations reducing CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. According to these officials, you agreed with your staff’s proposal that CO2 emissions from motor vehicles should be reduced and in Decemer forwarded an endangerment finding to the White House and a proposed motor vehicle regulation to the Department of Transportation…

The senior EPA officials who spoke with the Committee did not know what transpired inside the White House of the Department of Transportation or what directions the White House may have given to you. They do know, however, that since you sent the endangerment finding to the White House, "the work on vehicle efforts has stopped." They reported to the committee that the career officials assigned ot the issue have ceased their efforts and have been "awaiting direction" since December.

As per OMB Watch, the letter also pre-emptively rebuts the suggestion that the fuel economy standards passed by Congress in December have any legal impact on EPA’s legal obligations in wake of Mass. v. EPA. Waxman is demanding that EPA provide "copies of the documents relating to the endangerment finding and GHG vehicle rule, including copies of any communications with the White house and other federal agencies about these proposals." Copies of an EPA techinical support document, the proposed endangerment finding, and the proposed vehicle GHG rule are due by this Friday, March 14; all other documents are to be provided by March 28.

It should also be noted that Waxman previously uncovered an improper lobbying effort by the same parties in question here, DOT and the White House, against California’s since-denied application for a waiver to enact its own vehicle GHG standards. Waxman’s oversight into White House influence on that decision also continues, with a letter sent to Johnson on Monday threatening to subpoena missing documents unless they were provided by close-of-business today.

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