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Saturday, December 22, 2007

California's request to regulate carbon dioxide emissions - will closely examine

The Bush administration’s decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles exploded like a grenade here and in California. But it was hiding in plain sight for weeks.

The ruling was foreshadowed in White House letters, floor statements by members of Congress, public arguments from automobile industry officials and hints from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. Congress will closely examine the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to deny California's request to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives said on Friday.

The EPA on Wednesday denied California's attempt to place first-ever U.S. limits on automobile emissions of heat-trapping gases, which account for about 30 percent of the U.S. total.

The decision, lauded by the auto industry and pilloried by environmental groups, also stymies 16 other U.S. states' attempts to enact similar rules.

"Your decision will be challenged immediately in the courts and will be carefully scrutinized by the Congress as well," Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, wrote to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.

California said it will quickly appeal the decision.

"Administrator Johnson stands behind his decision," an EPA spokeswoman said. "Greenhouse gas emissions are global in nature and California is not exclusive in facing this challenge."

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, California Democrat, this week opened a panel probe into the agency's decision and told the EPA to preserve all papers and documents in the case record.

"Your decision appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act," Waxman wrote to Johnson, noting that the decision went against agency staff recommendations to grant the waiver.

The EPA will cooperate with Waxman's investigation, the agency spokeswoman said.
The EPA said an energy bill signed into law this week by President George W. Bush means no further action is needed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

The EPA, charged with making the decision, said the law to raise automobile fuel standards by 40 percent by 2020 was a "better approach" than a "patchwork" of state rules.

"I vigorously disagree with your rationale for that decision and I strongly support the inquiry (by Waxman's committee) into your decision-making process," Pelosi wrote.

California needed the EPA waiver to implement a law it passed this year to force automakers to make vehicles that cut emissions 25 percent by the 2009 model year.

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