EPA staff say Cheney had role in quashing California emissions standards
Published: Friday December 21, 2007

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Ford, GM won't deny claims executives met VP

Multiple staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency told the (registratiton-restricted) Los Angeles Times for Friday's editions that Bush Administration appointee Stephen Johnson, who heads the agency, quashed California's plan to regulate automobile emissions single-handedly, going against the wishes of nearly all of his staff.

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored his staff's written findings in denying California's request for a waiver to implement its landmark law to slash greenhouse gases from vehicles, sources inside and outside the agency told the Times' Janet Wilson on Thursday.

"California met every criteria . . . on the merits. The same criteria we have used for the last 40 years on all the other waivers," said an EPA staffer Wilson quoted. "We told him that. All the briefings we have given him laid out the facts."

California had sought a waiver from the federal emissions standards to implement a law which would further restrict emissions.

According to Wilson, "Some staff members believe Johnson made his decision after auto executives met with Vice President Dick Cheney and after a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the White House outlining why neither California nor the EPA should be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases, among other reasons. The Detroit News reported Wednesday that chief executives of Ford and Chrysler met with Cheney last month."

In November, Detroit News reported Cheney met with Chrysler Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli on Halloween and with Ford Motor Co. president and CEO Alan R. Mulally on October 24. "Cheney, who was chairman and CEO of energy services giant Halliburton Corp., has taken an active interest in energy policy and auto regulations since becoming vice president," David Shepardson reported. "He attended President Bush's meetings with the CEOs of Detroit's three automakers in November 2006 and in March this year."

Wilson tells the LA Times, "Clearly the White House said, 'We're going to get EPA out of the way and get California out of the way," said a quoted EPA employee. "If you give us this energy bill, then we're done, the deal is done.'"

His staff "worked for months" on the decision and concluded the opposite of what Johnson announced as his reasoning for blocking California's law, the paper said. Johnson said there was no need for separate state regulations on fuel economy because Bush had just signed another fuel economy bill -- albeit weaker -- and he didn't want a "patchwork" of state regulations.

"Technical and legal staff also concluded that if the waiver were denied, EPA would very likely lose in court to the state," Wilson wrote, citing three EPA sources.

"It's very highly unusual," another source with close ties to the agency told the paper.

Johnson could not be reached for comment.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said through a spokesman Thursday that he would sue the EPA over its decision.

Neither a Chrysler nor a Ford spokeswoman would comment to the paper as to whether either of the automakers' executives met Cheney.