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EPA docs show agency predicted legal troubles from denying CA emissions regulation
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday January 23, 2008 | StumbleUpon
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Dem senator says EPA administrator 'not telling the truth' about states' global warming laws

Defying agency attempts to keep its deliberations secret, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Wednesday released excerpts from internal EPA documents that show its career scientists recommended allowing California to institute its own emissions standards aimed at reducing global warming and predicted the agency would lose a court battle if it failed to do so.

Staff members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer chairs, were allowed to see several versions of a 46-page Power Point presentation that was delivered to EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson. Last month Johnson, who was appointed by President Bush, denied California's request for a Clean Air Act waiver to enact its own landmark law regulating vehicle emissions.

EPA experts predicted a lawsuit from auto manufacturers if it allowed the California waiver, but that would be a court case the "EPA is almost certain to win." Conversely, the EPA experts initially predicted the agency would be "likely to lose" an expected lawsuit from California if it denied the waiver. (That prediction was later changed to observe that "EPA's litigation risks are significantly higher than if a waiver is granted.")

A Boxer aide told reporters Wednesday there was "virtually nothing" in the presentation to support Johnson's decision, and the senator herself questioned whether the top US environmental official was acting on behalf of the auto industry instead of the American people.

"He has a staff that's supposed to help him protect the environment. He's not listening to them, so who is he listening to, and why?" Boxer said at a Capitol Hill press conference, noting her committee has requested copies of correspondence among the EPA, the White House and car companies that would be affected by California's new law.

Last month, Johnson denied California's request to limit greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. He said at the time that the decision was designed to avoid a "confusing patchwork of state rules," and argued that the president's energy bill would be a better fix.

Boxer said there are only two standards, California's and the federal governments, and states can choose whichever one they want to follow when crafting emissions laws.

"When he says patchwork, he is not telling the truth, period," Boxer said.

The EPA has been "dragging its feet" and refused to hand over the documents before a field briefing on the issue Jan. 10, Boxer said, and the agency still seemed to be trying to gum up the Senate's investigation even after allowing access to the documents. Staffers were only allowed to examine a few versions of the presentation, while EPA lawyers hovered over their shoulders, and they were not allowed to photocopy any documents, instead transcribing the information by hand as best they could.

"I'm sure Mr. Johnson would be horrified if he knew I was doing this," Boxer said after describing the contents of the presentation and distributing excerpts thereof to about a dozen assembled reporters, including RAW STORY. The excerpts also were posted on the committee's Web site.

The Power Point compiled recommendations from career EPA staffers and found California "continues to have compelling and extraordinary conditions" that would justify separate air-quality standards there, including prevalent wildfires, varied ecosystems and ozone problems that exceed those in other states.

EPA staffers have said previously that Johnson ignored their recommendations, and other news outlets have reported that the Power Point presentation was delivered. But Boxer's press conference marked the first time that pieces of internal EPA documents had been made public.

Boxer will preside over a hearing examining the EPA's decision Thursday. Johnson has been invited to testify along with several governors and other experts supporting the California standard.

The senator noted that 19 states, with a combined population of more than 152 million people, have implemented California's standards or are preparing to do so.

"We need to know," she said, "why a majority of our population ... have been denied the opportunity to clean up green house gas emissions."