Boucher Releases White Paper on "Appropriate Roles for Different Levels of Government" 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 26 Feb 2008 01:40:00 GMT

In the middle of September 2007, Rick Boucher (D-W.Va.), chair of the the the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee of John Dingell’s Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he would be releasing a series of white papers “over the next six weeks” on issues related to the development of climate change legislation. The third such paper, Appropriate Roles for Different Levels of Government, has now been released.

After reviewing state, local and regional initiatives to combat global warming emissions, in its discussion of the possible costs of local regulations in addition to a federal cap-and-trade system, the 25-page white paper bores in on the question of federal preemption. This issue was highlighted in December by EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s denial of California’s waiver request under the Clean Air Act to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson’s decision spurred a multi-state lawsuit, an investigation by House Oversight chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and contentious Senate hearings.

The paper follows statements made previously by committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) supporting Johnson’s stated justification for denying the waiver:
One key factor that distinguishes climate change from other pollution problems our country has tackled is that local greenhouse gas emissions do not cause local environmental or health problems, except to the extent that the emissions contribute to global atmospheric concentrations. This characteristic of greenhouse gases stands in contrast to most pollution problems, where emissions adversely affect people locally where the emissions occur. The global nature of climate change takes away (or at least greatly minimizes) one of the primary reasons many national environmental programs have provisions preserving State authority to adopt and enforce environmental programs that are more stringent than Federal programs: States have a responsibility to protect their own citizens.
In its concluding remarks, the paper summarizes the internal committee battle:
As the debate over whether the Federal Government should preempt California’s greenhouse gas motor vehicle standards has shown, Committee Members balance these various factors in a way that can lead to different conclusions that will need to be worked out through the legislative process. Chairman Dingell has made it very clear that he believes that motor vehicle greenhouse gas standards should be set by the Federal Government, not by State governments: greenhouse gases are global (not local) pollutants, multiple programs would be an undue burden on interstate commerce and would waste societal and governmental resources without reducing national emissions, and the competing interests of different States should be resolved at the Federal level. Other Committee Members have reached the opposite conclusion given the severity of the climate change problem, the need to push technological development, and the benefits of having States act as laboratories.

GM Chief Asks Dealers to Lobby Against State-Level Greenhouse Limits 7

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 11 Feb 2008 19:03:00 GMT

From the AP:
General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner urged a group of auto dealers Saturday to lobby against individual states trying to set their own limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Wagoner, speaking to the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco, said several states want to go beyond requirements passed by Congress.

If that happens and automakers must focus on state regulations, they won’t be able to focus as much on alternative fuel vehicles to reduce oil consumption and pollution, he said.

“We’re not going to be able to accomplish everything that we otherwise could,” Wagoner said. . .

“We need to work together to educate policymakers at the state and local levels on the importance of tough but national standards,” Wagoner told the dealers group.

He also said dealers and automakers should push for infrastructure to handle new technologies including hydrogen and ethanol fueling stations and charging stations for electric vehicles.

GM is the official vehicle provider for the Democratic National Convention, a decision highlighted as part of the DNC’s “green” mission:
“GM’s leadership in this area will play a critical role in our event – helping us make this the ‘greenest’ political convention our country has ever seen, while providing our guests with yet another convenient option for getting around Denver.”
– Leah Daughtry, DNC CEO
Once we talked to them about how we really wanted to push the environmental piece, they were 100 percent on board.
– Cameron Moody, the DNCC’s director of operations
This will be a great showcase to change perceptions about GM and to show we are taking leadership.
– GM spokesman Greg Martin

Waxman Subpoenas EPA Docs; Congressional Pressure Continues to Build 4

Posted by Warming Law Mon, 11 Feb 2008 15:45:00 GMT

In a move that has been discussed for some time on both sides of Capitol Hill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has grown tired of waiting around for EPA to fully cooperate with his investigation of California’s EPA waiver denial:
Escalating the fight over the decision, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, directed the EPA to provide uncensored copies of its staff recommendation to agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson before he rejected California’s request to enact tailpipe emission standards stricter than the federal government’s. The EPA was told to respond by noon Tuesday.

“The committee is simply trying to understand if the decision to reject California’s plan was made on the merits, so I’m especially disappointed that EPA is refusing to provide the relevant documents voluntarily,” Waxman said. “But we will to try to get to the bottom of this.”

[...]

The EPA has also turned over some documents, but they were heavily redacted, so much so that some pages were largely blank. The agency has resisted turning over nonredacted documents to Congress, contending that they are protected under attorney-client privilege. California and more than a dozen other states that want to enact similar laws have sued to overturn Johnson’s decision.

The agency has also argued that releasing the documents could have a “chilling effect” on candid discussions within the EPA. Vice President Dick Cheney also cited the need to keep internal deliberations private in fighting congressional efforts to force him to disclose details of private meetings he held as the White House drafted its energy policy, an initiative sparked in part by another California issue – the 2000-01 electricity crisis.

Waxman’s deadline isn’t the only one EPA must meet this week. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has given it until Friday to turn over documents related to potential White House involvement, and she has now spearheaded a call for the Government Accountability Office to look into factors influencing the waiver decision.

Johnson’s spokesman stood by the decision and said he wouldn’t be changing his mind anytime soon, but that hardly seems to be the California delegation’s point here. They’re building a careful case for congressional intervention via Senator Boxer’s legislative remedy overturning the decision, and both the slow pace of legal proceedings (which California is trying to hasten)and EPA’s foot-dragging play right into their hands.

Florida and Iowa Join EPA Lawsuit; California Seeks to Expedite Hearing 1

Posted by Warming Law Mon, 04 Feb 2008 19:05:00 GMT

Last week, California’s lawsuit to overturn EPA’s waiver decision continued to gain support despite the automobile industry’s best efforts to prevent more states from stepping up to the plate on global warming emissions. While this preemptive lobbying campaign did temporarily stop a California legislative proposal to limit emissions through a “feebate” program, it has failed to convince states to hold back on supporting the Pavley clean cars program. Late Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state of Iowa joined the lawsuit, filing a 24-page motion to intervene in the case:

The motion presented by Iowa and Florida on Friday stated that the two states "recognize that motor vehicles are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Global warming is already seriously and negatively impacting the public health, economies, and environments of (the two states), and its effects are expected to worsen in the absence of effective abatement prompted by immediate governmental action.”

The Iowa Office of Energy Independence recommended in December that Iowa join with other states considering the adoption of California’s vehicle emissions standards.

Warming Law has written previously just how important it is that states that haven’t yet moved to adopt the California standards are getting involved here, and its likewise critical that states in the process of enacting regulations – such as Florida and Arizona—are still moving forward in every way that they can. It does, however, continue to bear highlighting that Florida’s environmental regulators had to bring its case rather than the state itself, a likely product of state AG Bill McCollum’s well-documented climate-change skepticism.

Meanwhile, the automobile industry has now formally acted on its support for EPA’s decision, as the Association of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association have requested leave to intervene in its defense. On the flip side, the South Coast Air Quality Management District—the regulatory board in charge of overseeing Southern California’s heavily polluted air—the Washington Environmental Council, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation were among additional petitioners seeking to intervene on California’s behalf.

Also last week, the state filed a motion to expedite the 9th Circuit’s hearing of the case. Warming Law is working to obtain the motion and we’ll have more analysis thereafter, but this is definitely not an unexpected move. The current briefing schedule drags out initial filings over the next few months, and California, which would like to start implementing its regulations in early 2009, has always indicated that it would like to see legal proceedings speed up. A lack of judicial haste, or possible delaying tactics by EPA that might include efforts to have the case moved or dismissed, would likely increase pressure on Congress to intervene.

EPA Admin on the Hot Seat at EPW Hearing 91

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 24 Jan 2008 16:36:00 GMT

At today’s Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the EPA’s decision to deny the California waiver, EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson defended his decision under intense questioning from the Democratic members of the EPW (the only minority member to attend was Sen. Inhofe).

Johnson repeatedly argued that because greenhouse gases are a global problem, California did not have a “unique” or “exclusive” interest; two terms which have been found to be distinct from the “compelling and extraordinary” criteria the Clean Air Act the waiver petition must meet. As NRDC advisor Fran Pavley noted in the January 10 field briefing:
A 1984 waiver determination by then-EPA-Administrator William Ruckelshaus deeming that California’s plight need not be “unique” in order to be “compelling and extraordinary.”

The senators pressed Johnson hard on the long-delayed endangerment finding, a timeline for which he would not discuss. Under repeated questioning, he refused to concede that global warming represents a threat to public health, even when confronted with the CDC testimony from last October’s hearing. He agreed only that it is a “serious issue.”

Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.), displaying his prosecutorial background, leading Johnson into a discussion of how he overruled his staff, trying to parse Johnson’s description of a presentation of a “range of options” with the existence, if any, of a “consolidated recommendation.” In the end Johnson argued that the two terms could be synonymous.

Interestingly, Sen. Carper (D-Del.) favorably discussed Sen. Levin’s colloquy that implied that the Energy Act CAFE standards restrict EPA action on emissions regulation.

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to deny the California waiver 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 24 Jan 2008 15:00:00 GMT

Sen. Barbara Boxer continues the investigation.

Witnesses
Panel I (Warming Law live-blog)
  • Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Panel II (Warming Law live-blog)
  • Martin O’Malley, Governor of Maryland
  • Jim Douglas, Governor of Vermont
  • Edward G. Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania
  • Mike Cox, Attorney General, State of Michigan
  • Doug Haaland, Director of Member Services, Assembly Republican Caucus, State of California
Panel III (Warming Law live-blog)
  • David D. Doniger, Policy Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Counci
  • Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Partner, Bracewell & Giuliani

Witnesses
Panel I

  • Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Opening remarks from Warming Law blog:
10:10 AM: Senator Inhofe (R-OK) is on, and he’s angry at the media for saying Johnson refused to appear at a January 10th hearing in Los Angeles. It was a field hearing, and a blatant political event, and had Johnson shown up he’d have been critical of him. Today’s hearing is also theater. Where was the outrage when the Clinton EPA was repeatedly late, given far more time?

P.S. He thinks Johnson’s decision was right, in case you didn’t figure that out—carbon is “ordinary, not extraordinary” when it comes to carbon. Plus temperatures there have been DECLINING over the last 2 decades according to his chart. Also Oklahoma would lose jobs if this went into effect. 10 AM: And we’re live! Senator Boxer is speaking about this “unconscionable” decision affecting over half the population; she has “never seen such disregard and disrespect” for Congress from an agency head than in this process. Places in the record statements from CA officials, the governor of CT, and so forth. Also worth noting that Johnson’s prepared testimony, from what I can see so far, very clearly announces that EPA will be trying to have the existing lawsuit tossed and force it to have to be refiled in the DC Circuit:

“The final decision document and federal register notice are currently being prepared by agency staff. When I review and sign the decision document for publication, that will be the final agency action and that will be the time for any court challenges. As with prior waivers, I expect that decision to be a final action of national applicability, and accordingly…Federal Register’s notice of the decision will say so.”

10:12 AM: Boxer uses up the rest of her time now, and icily notes Inhofe went over his by 30 seconds. This is the first time a waiver has been denied in full; she thought the field hearing was in friendship and of benefit to the people of CA. Holds up a tray with all the tape her staff had to pull of the EPA staff documents Tuesday: this is not befitting of treatment of Congress, in the greatest nation on earth.

10:18 AM: Senator Lieberman (I-CT) is up, to be followed by Senator Carper (D-DE). No Republicans besides Inhofe are present. Lieberman state leadership’s benefits, and quotes Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’” regarding the federal government standing in the road. This is actually how federalism is supposed to work—.laboratories of democracy! There is no patchwork; CA analysis refutes Johnson’s assertions that federal fuel economy goes further; denial letter’s statement on lacking “compelling and extraordinary conditions” is bunk in light of Mass. v. EPA.

Carper cites the same decision re: EPA’s duty to harmonize vehicle GHG efforts with the DOT standards, not shirk it! Thinks inconsistencies/patchwork being possible is a real concern there, but EPA has done squat to address and act; instead made it an excuse for inaction, despite the Supreme Court knocking down the same excuses. Also, we need a national GHG cap-and-trade program, cites state and regional leadership. Congress must lead and not preempt, and then states won’t have to do the job for them.

10:30 AM: Lautenberg (D-NJ) says this is a step backward in a global sense, chose to protect industry over environment. Glad states are suing to overturn; he and Boxer will soon introduce legislation to do the same thing. Cardin (D-MD) reiterates public health impact, subversion of EPA’s historic role, and Lieberman’s points—this is an “affront to federalism.” He’s glad to press ahead with legislation—federal agencies should press ahead without legislative interference, but when they ignore own scientists. Congress needs to step in.

10:32 Sanders It was only last year that this administration admitted that global warming was a reality. As others have said, if you can’t do the right thing, at least get out of the way. We are an outdoor state. We want our kids to live in a world without flood, drought. The law in my mind could not be more clear. California waited on a decision for its waiver for two years. No decision document, just a press release. Unprecedented. Sen. Boxer, I’m proud to join you in your legislation.

10:35 Klobuchar To think that the Supreme Court, which is not a radically liberal court, would say that the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. You’d think that the EPA would have been able to do that on its own. I question the inference that the increase in the CAFE standards obviates the need for the California waiver. The U.S. District Court found that the California waiver and increased CAFE standards overlap but do not conflict.

10:39 Whitehouse I’d like to say three things. The state of Rhode Island is one of the waiver states. I’m extremely glad Chairman Boxer has held this hearing. It’s apparent that the EPA has a pattern of ignore the science, ignore the law, deliver the goods. The directors of health of the states are unanimous on this subject. For some reason we seem unable to unwind ourselves from the axle here.

10:44 Stephen Johnson: In light of the international nature of the problem, I concluded that California does not have a unique and compelling interest.

10:47 Boxer Do you understand that many other states are being impacted?

Johnson Under the law I only consider California.

Boxer Your mission is to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Many of us believe you are going against your mission. Let’s talk about a process that you promised this committee in your nomination hearings that your guiding principles would be that your decisions would be guided by the best available science and the process would be open and transparent. Let me show you the docements you sent us.

Three pages that have been completely redacted.

Is this your notion of an open and transparent way to make decisions?

Johnson When the agency is in litigation, we protect with attorney-client privilege documents so we can defend ourselves. I decided to waive my privilege to let your staff see documents. I followed the law.

Boxer You sending us blank documents, you’re so magnanimous you gave us documents covered with tape. You have no privilege vis-a-vis the Congress. You cannot assert privilege against Congress. They’re not classified, they’re not confidential. This is just the beginning of information.

I have to say, sir, when you look at was in the taped-over documents, you’re walking the American taxpayers into a lawsuit you’re going to lose.

10:54 Inhofe As you’re aware the EPA documents that are confidential and litigation-sensitive were released. Do you think this will have a chiling effect?

Johnson Yes, I was disappointed.

Inhofe Was this a staff decision or your decision to make?

Johnson I had a wide range of legally defensible options presented to me, and I made the decision.

Inhofe This applies to other greenhouse gases similarly?

Johnson Yes. They are global in nature. Therein lies the problem. It is not unique, it is not exclusive to California.

Inhofe Does the Clean Air Act require the EPA to grant waiver petitions?

Johnson No, it does not require me to rubber-stamp waivers.

Inhofe Are you the first administrator to consult with the administration, the Justice Department?

Johnson I have routine conversations with members of the administration, I think that’s good government.

Inhofe Sierra Research, NERA. They conclude the California standards would result in decades of worse air quality.

Johnson There were certainly lots of comments that were duly noted.

Johnson As you correctly point out, this is the first waiver of its type. In my opinion based on the facts presented to me, California doesn’t meet one of the criteria.

Inhofe Isn’t a national solution the best way to deal with climate change?

Johnson I believe so.

11 AM Lieberman I’d like to pick up on your preference for a national standard. I want to focus in. Last year after the Supreme Court decision the goal was set to set national transportation emission standards. You had the personal goal of issuing those standards by end of 2007. Obviously it’s 2008. Do you still intend to issue national emissions standards, and when?

Johnson We are still working on fuel and emissions standards. The new energy act impacts and provides direction. It doesn’t relieve me of responsibilities. We’re working our way through what the legislation directs us to do. So that’s all being worked on. I don’t have at this point a date. I’m certainly aware of the dates in the legislation. It’s our intent to meet those dates.

Lieberman I appreciate your answer because I believe the administration’s pledge to release standards are quite distinct from CAFE. I’m glad you’re working on it. I hope you’ll come to a conclusion soon. I want to ask you that since the EPA has already taken a fair amount of time on this, when do you expect the notice to appear in the Federal Register?

Johnson The end of February.

Lieberman In light of the recent reports by IPCC and others, on what scientific grounds did you conclude the threats to California are not compelling and extraordinary?

Johnson The documents will explain the full reasoning. Again, as we’ve discussed, it’s not unique, it’s not exclusive to California. Certainly IPCC and a number of other studies are very important.

11:06 Carper There was a colloquy with Levin and Inouye about NITSA and EPA.

Johnson Congratulations to all of you to passing the legislation. It is a significant accomplishment. Two points I’d like to make. As I was deliberating on the California waiver decision, you in Congress were debating whether to pass the Energy Act, the colloquy focused on Section 209. I didn’t know what you were going to do. Section 209 was not changed. I have to make the decision based on the law of the land of the day. Our charge is to develop regulations to implement what Congress has passed.

Carper If we’re going to pass greenhouse gas legislation at the federal level, EPA could hasten that by dealing with three issues. Compiling a greenhouse registry, safety standards for CO2 sequestration, verifying offsets.

Johnson Our staff are working on the first; second, we are now drafting a regulation which you should see this summer. We’re working with the Department of Agriculture on the third.

11:13 Lautenberg Do you believe global warming is a serious problem to human health?

Johnson It’s a serious problem. One of the issues that’s facing me is the issue of endangerment under the Clean Air Act.

Lautenberg Is global warming dangerous to human health?

Johnson The agency has not made a decision on endangerment.

Lautenberg If there was no federal law that gave you a route to follow, would your conscience have anything to say?

Johnson My conscience is guided by what the law says.

Lautenberg Do you think global warming is a hoax or a serious problem?

Johnson It’s a serious problem.

Lautenberg You say the problem is national and that regional efforts have no value, and that’s strictly dictated by law.

Johnson In the context of the California waiver I have to make decision based on particular criteria.

Lautenberg I’m going to interpret what you’re not saying and say that you would have made the same decision no matter what the law directs. . .

Johnson First of all any conversations I have with the President are between him and myself. I’m satisfied, confident, and comfortable with the decision.

11:21 Cardin How much of this decision was politically motivated?

Johnson I think it’s good government to consider comments from the public, including your committee. I made an independent decision. Ultimately it’s a judgment decision by me. I feel it’s a right decision.

Cardin How much was it based on technical information, how much was it based on personal viewpoints?

Johnson It’s a global problem, requiring a global solution, at least a national solution. I stand by my decision.

11:26 Sanders Just as a human being, do you think the impact of flooding, drought, malaria, wildfires are a serious health issue?

Johnson I consider myself a human being. Those are important problems.

11:32 Klobuchar Please discuss the endangerment ruling process.

Johnson We are working through a very deliberate process on the Supreme Court rule.

Klobuchar The CDC redacted testimony said that increased heat waves would increase mortality in the United States. Diseases, lung damage; another agency is saying it’s a public health risk.

Johnson I have not said whether we are or are not using it.

Klobuchar I know that as one of the rationales for denying would create a “patchwork” system. My understanding is that there would be a California standard or a national standard.

Johnson I tried to make it clear that the Clean Air Act criteria guided my decision.

Klobuchar I want to make clear it would be two standards.

Johnson It would be more like a checkerboard.

11:38 Whitehouse Did you direct the process?

Johnson The process was the standard one.

Whitehouse Did the staff briefings include staff recommendations?

Johnson Yes.

Whitehouse How were the recommendations presented?

Johnson They presented a range of legally defensible options, with pros and cons.

Whitehouse Is it customary for the staff to consolidate a recommendation before they come to the director?

Johnson The staff identify the available options and identify the pros and cons.

Whitehouse My understanding is there was an options analysis, a recommendation, and then your decision.

Johnson I would add a step of what past practices and foundational briefing.

Whitehouse With respect to the recommendation phase, it is customary for you to have the various elements of the agency to try to come up with a consolidated recommendation?

Johnson What is typical for me is that as the staff brief the options I have discussions with the policy advisors.

Whitehouse Is the recommendation just you asking people and they may or may not talk?

Johnson No, there’s usually either a consolidated recommendation or a range of options.

Whitehouse Why wouldn’t you always get a consolidated recommendation?

Johnson It’s not a popular vote.

11:45 Boxer I think the refusal of the EPA administrator refusal to state that global warming is a threat to human health is at best embarassing and at worst dangerous. You have stated that we told the American people what are in these documents. When can we expect the rest of the documents?

Johnson I’d ask you respect the privilege.

Boxer I’m asking a different question. My responsibility is to my state and this country. When can this committee expect the rest of the documents?

Johnson I believe February 15th.

Boxer Will they include communications with the White House?

Johnson I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Boxer I’m trying to avoid subpoenas. You said you were briefed on the law. This is what it says: the Act requires the waiver to be granted unless California has acted capriciously. We hope you won’t send the documents over with tape. These documents are important for the people of this country to see. It’s ridiculous, it’s a waste of time.

11:50 Inhofe How can California meet the consistency requirement since there are no federal greenhouse gas standards? When you talk about whether anthropogenic gases are the major cause, the science is not settled. I used the names of very authentic scientists, leaders, Claude Allegre. He said clearly the science isn’t there. David Bellamy in UK as well. There are several who showed up in Indonesia. I was the only skunk in the picnic in Milan. We have the 400 scientists, all of whom take issue with the fact that there is consensus. It is not settled. More and more scientists are coming and questioning it. You were asked if you agree with the IPCC. Do you agree with the assessment they cut the sea level rise in half?

Johnson That’s my understanding.

11:54 Carper I’d like to go back to my question about a mandatory registry.

Johnson The appropriations language directed a draft rule not later than 9 months after enactment and a final rule not later than 18 months. Our intent is to meet that.

Carper What is the status of the EPA’s proceedings to meet the Supreme Court demand?

Johnson We are working to develop our full package. As we propose draft regulations for both vehicles as well as fuels our finding of endangerment would be part of that. I don’t have a date.

Carper Are you in the position to provide the committee with documents?

Johnson We’re in the internal deliberative process. After I’ve made the decision I would be happy to.

Carper What are your views on the nationwide CO2 legislation we’re working on?

Johnson We are in the process of finishing up our analysis of Lieberman-Warner.

Carper I hope it will be a supportive analysis and timely. I believe we will bring L-W to the floor in early June.

Boxer I believe it may be earlier than that.

11:59 Lautenberg The California waiver decision took two years.

Johnson Only once the Supreme Court made the ruling it was within two weeks I began the process.

12:03 Cardin My question to you is that I hope we’ve learned from this experience that delay is unacceptable. You can do things better.

12:04 Sanders My understanding is that a technical document would usually be prepared and be ready for distribution before the decision is announced. Was it just a coincidence that you announced your decision at a press event on the evening signed the energy bill? It seems like a strange time to make that announcement.

Sanders Was it a coincidence?

Johnson Let me explain the decision. That afternoon the press office began receiving calls that papers had been leaked that would allow things to be misinterpreted. So I made the decision to make the announcement.

Sanders The average American would find it strange that the head of the agency would make this announcement in a press release on the evening of the signing.

Johnson It was a unique situation.

Sanders It was a coincidence?

Johnson I would be happy to explain the situation further for the record.

Sanders Are you able to understand why the average American would be dubious? The circumstances had nothing to do with the signing of the energy bill?

Johnson As I tried to say, I was aware Congress was debating the issue. I wanted to take advantage of the knowledge that the President did indeed sign the legislation.

12:09 Klobuchar So it wasn’t unrelated.

Johnson The decision to make the announcement that day was based on leaks. I had already made my announcement to the staff.

Klobuchar This is the first waiver denied under the Act.

Johnson That’s correct. This is the first one dealing with greenhouse gases.

Klobuchar You’ve backed off the patchwork. I want to make clear that the California standards don’t require the emissions reductions come from fuel efficiency alone. At what do we see extraordinary conditions?

Johnson As you’re pointing out, it’s not exclusive, it’s not unique to California. It is not exclusive. There is not a compelling need for that state standard.

12:15 PM Whitehouse You keep saying “In my judgment”. The legislative history says the administrator is not to substitute his judgment for the state.

Johnson It just takes one of the criteria not being met. In my mind this is requiring me to make a judgment.

Whitehouse You said there is to be typical four there to be four steps: a briefing, options analysis, consolidated recommendation, then your decision.

Johnson Let me add to that.

Whitehouse I don’t want you to slow walk that.

Johnson You missed evaluating the comments.

Whitehouse Was there a consolidated recommendation?

Johnson I don’t recall that there was one on this. Sometimes there’s a consolidated recommendation, sometimes there’s not.

Whitehouse You’re under oath. You just agreed with me the process is typical, then you said there’s not.

Johnson Sometimes there are consolidated recommendations in the form of a list of options, sometimes the consolidated recommendation is just one. I leave it up to the head of the particular office.

Whitehouse Isn’t it a matter of basic discipline to get to a consolidated recommendation?

Johnson Sometimes it’s one option, sometimes it’s three options, sometimes it’s five.

Whitehouse So the options analysis and consolidated recommendation are the same thing now? It is standard procedure to come to a consolidated recommendation. Now it seems you have manipulated the process. I’m pretty familiar with administrative law.

12:24 Boxer You said there was no connection between the President’s signing of the Energy Bill and timing of your announcement. Your announcement started with praise for the signing. Let me just say as a human being to a human being, when you say it had nothing to do with it, your entire rationale was based on this. In your statement you said there would be a patchwork, and Sen. Klobuchar corrected you.

12:27 Sanders For your good, because you are under oath. There is concern about the politicization about many aspects of the Bush administration, including the EPA. I asked if it was just a coincidence. You said there were other reasons. Sen. Boxer just made public your statement, which says it begins with stating “President Bush signed the Energy Act…” The beginning of your statement in terms with why you rejected the waiver has everything to do with the President signing the bill.

Johnson I was deliberating on Section 209 and you all were deliberating on whether you were going to change that section. When it became clear that you did not change the section then it was clear I could make the decision.

Sanders You didn’t mention the leaks in your public release.

Johnson I certainly appreciate your recommendation. It’s factually correct that the bill was passed.

12:32 Boxer I don’t deny your veracity that there were leaks. One other question about dates. When will you have the decision document ready?

Johnson As I said to Sen. Carper, we expect the end of February.

Boxer The witness is excused.

At the Auto Show: Dingell Supports EPA's Denial of California Waiver 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Jan 2008 19:38:00 GMT

In a Detroit News piece entitled Dingell tours show; says state-by-state emissions rules would doom carmakers, David Shepardson writes that Dingell fully supported last month’s decision by the EPA to deny the California waiver to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.

Dingell, D-Dearborn, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said if California got the waiver it could impose conflicting federal and state standards. The California standards could be make automobile production “so expensive that people won’t be able to buy and second of all get so difficult that the companies won’t be able to produce anyhow.”

Dingell said the California system could lead to 50 different standards. He said the EPA decision “makes good sense.”

As has been previously discussed on Hill Heat, the specter of 50 different standards is simply false. Under the Clean Air Act only California has the authority to get waivers from national standards. Other states can then follow California or the federal standards. At most there can be two different standards.

Dingell plans to introduce a climate change bill in his committee “as fast as we can” but wants to exclude the auto industry, arguing that the CAFE standards in the 2007 energy bill are sufficient regulation: “We’ve had everybody else get practically a free ride and auto industry has to come up with a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency,” Dingell said. “We’re going to try to see that the pain is shared equally all around.”

Update: Dingell has issued a clarification of his remarks, stating that he considers CAFE standards to be a “carbon constraint” and that the CAFE standard increase “tightens the cap on automobiles by 40 percent by 2020.” Any carbon cap would entail “further reductions” that would be have to matched by “comparable contributions” by other industries.

Shepardson also reports on an interview with Margo Oge, director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality. She didn’t expect the agency to issue a formal written denial “until next month at the earliest.” The EPA may be trying to argue that its the EPA press release announcing the denial isn’t actually grounds for a suit to overturn the decision. She also said that the EPA “completed its draft of its own new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” but didn’t provide details.

Fred Krupp, head of Environmental Defense, was also interviewed:
Krupp said he that he and Dingell don’t agree on all issues, but do on the need for a broader climate change.

“He may be the only one that can get a climate change bill,” Krupp said, noting Dingell’s experience in moving large pieces of environmental legislation.

Krupp said he liked the increase in advanced technology vehicles especially in hybrids in broader vehicle lineups. “The fact that the Big Three makers as well as Toyota and others are making these higher mileage options available in everyday cars is terrific,” Krupp said.

Asked about the fact that hybrids still account for just 2 percent of U.S. sales, Krupp noted the growth rate year over year. “I suppose people said initially that very few people were buying Macintosh Apple computers,” Krupp said. “When gasoline prices are $3.50 a gallon, I think you will see growing interest in these options.”

Krupp said there’s “going to be a need for a shared burden” among automakers, oil companies and utilities. They all will have to “belly up to the bar,” Krupp said.

Waxman Presses EPA on California Waiver 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 14 Jan 2008 18:26:00 GMT

California Democrat and House Oversight Committee chair Henry Waxman has turned up the heat in his investigation into EPA’s denial of the California waiver request to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gases, calling for depositions of numerous EPA officials and criticizing the delay in document production. He expects a mutual schedule for production and interviews to be worked out by January 16. Waxman noted that althought EPA counsel had accompanied officials in previous interviews, because EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s “own conduct is being examined, this accommodation would not be appropriate.”

When he opened the investigation in December, Waxman set deadlines of January 10th, 17th, and 23rd for various EPA offices to deliver responsive documents.

The EPA’s associate administrator Christopher Bliley sent a letter on January 4 saying the EPA would try to deliver documents by January 11, a day after Waxman had requested. On the 11th he wrote that the first documents might be ready by January 18.

Waxman’s full response is after the jump.

Dear Administrator Johnson:

On December 20, 2007, I wrote to request that you provide the Committee with documents relating to your decision to reject California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I requested that the documents be produced on a rolling schedule, starting on January 10 with responsive documents from your immediate office. On January 4 and January 11, 2008, your staff responded to my letter, but did not provide any documents. I appreciate the efforts EPA is taking to collect responsive documents, but I am concerned about the failure of the agency to meet the Committee’s January l0 deadline. I am also concerned that no schedules for document production are proposed in your letters.

In an effort to accommodate the agency without unduly delaying the Committee’s investigation, I ask that your staff work with Committee staff to establish by the close of business on January l6 mutually agreeable deadlines for producing documents to the Committee.

The Committee will also be conducting transcribed interviews or depositions of agency staff who may have knowledge of the agency’s deliberations. As a first step in this process, I request that a schedule be established by the close of business on January l6 for the interview or deposition of the following officials:
  • Robert Meyers, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation
  • Jason Burnett, Associate Deputy Administrator, Office of the Administrator
  • Margo Oge, Director, Office of Transportation and Air Quality
  • Karl Simon, Director, Compliance and Innovative Strategies Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality
  • Brian Mclean, Director, Office of Atmospheric Programs
  • Dina Kruger, Director, Climate Change Division, Office of Atmospheric Programs
  • Rob Brenner, Director, Office of Program Analysis and Review

In prior investigations, the Committee has allowed counsel representing the agency to be present during transcribed interviews. In this case, since your own conduct is being examined, this accommodation would not be appropriate, although counsel employed by the agency may participate if they certify that their presence is as counsel for the witness.

If you have any Questions concerning this request, please have your staff contact Greg Dotson of the Committee staff at (202)225-4407.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman

Chairman

Boxer Threatens EPA Subpoena; State Previews Legal Arguments 3

Posted by Warming Law Fri, 11 Jan 2008 22:22:00 GMT

(Cross-posted from Warming Law)

Anticipation has been high that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) would use her platform running the Senate Environment and Public Works Commitee to pressure the EPA regarding its denial of California’s waiver application, and a committee field hearing yesterday did not disappoint. Responding to Administrator Stephen Johnson’s no-show and failure to provide documentation of how he reached his decision, Boxer threatened to use the committee’s subpoena power and generally pledged to step up congressional pressure:
“This outrageous decision . . . is completely contrary to the law and science,” Boxer said in a briefing with state officials at Los Angeles City Hall. She held up an empty cardboard box as a symbol of the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal so far to provide the hefty technical and legal backup that normally accompanies air pollution waiver decisions and are usually published in the Federal Register.

[...]

Johnson is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee in Washington on Jan. 24. An EPA spokesman said, “The official decision documents are being prepared, and they will be released soon.”

California Attorney General Jerry Brown praised Boxer’s subpoena threat, at one point calling Johnson a “stooge in a really pathetic drama that hopefully will not play out much longer.” Brown used his written testimony to document the state’s legal case against the waiver decision, and specifically honed in on EPA’s central assertion that the waiver request did not meet “compelling and extraordinary” conditions due to global warming’s wide-ranging impact.

In addition to reiterating this logic’s departure from the text of the law and the Supreme Court’s rejection of a similar argument in Mass. v. EPA, various testimony directly cited the way in which past waiver decisions have interpreted the law. Former Assembleywoman Fran Pavley—who authored the clean cars law—pointed to a 1984 waiver determination by then-EPA-Administrator William Ruckelshaus deeming that California’s plight need not be “unique” in order to be "compelling and extraordinary." Brown, meanwhile, cited a 1975 waiver determination’s assessment of the Clean Air Act, which noted that:
[I]n the light of their unusually detailed and explicit legislative history. . .Congress meant to ensure by the language it adopted that the Federal government would not second-guess the wisdom of state policy here. . . . Sponsors of the language eventually adopted referred repeatedly to their intent to make sure that no “Federal bureaucrat” would be able to tell the people of California what auto emission standards were good for them, as long as they were stricter than Federal standards.
California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols used her testimony to further undermine EPA’s argument, noting a just-released Stanford study showing that global warming seems to worsen the same localized air-pollution problems in California that everyone agrees spurred Congress to enact the waiver process. David Roberts summarized that study’s impact thusly:
Forthcoming in Geophysical Research Letters, research by engineering professor Mark Jakobson finds a direct causal link between increased CO2 in the atmosphere and increased morbidity from air pollution.

In other words: CO2 makes traditional air pollution – ozone, particulates, carcinogens – more deadly. It follows that states with the worst air pollution have more to fear from climate change.

EPA Denial of California Global Warming Waiver 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 10 Jan 2008 18:00:00 GMT

The Field Briefing will take place Thursday, January 10 at 10:00am PST in the City Council Chamber at the Los Angeles City Hall, 200 North Spring St. in Los Angeles.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson has been invited to appear at the field briefing to answer Senators’ questions about the EPA’s denial of California’s request for a waiver to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles.

Witnesses
  • Edmund G. Brown Jr., Attorney General of California
  • Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board
  • Fran Pavley, Senior Advisor, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club

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