EPA’s California Decision Under Investigation, Cheney Involved

Jan. 22, 2007: Source – Los Angeles Times

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson

Less than two days after the EPA denied California a waiver to impose its own limits on greenhouse gases, a Congressional committee launched an investigation of the Agency’s controversial decision.

The Committee, led by Congressman Henry Waxman of California, requested that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson turn over all documents relating to the waiver decision by January 10, 2008. "Prior to making this decision you assured the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as the state of California and many others, that you would make this decision on the merits. It does not appear that you fulfilled that commitment," Waxman wrote in a letter to the EPA administrator on Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times reported that EPA staff advised Johnson to either grant the waiver outright or give California a temporary one for three years. Instead, three sources said, Johnson cut off any consultation with his technical staff for the last month and made his decision before having them write the formal, legal justification for it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, EPA staff also suspects that Vice President Dick Cheney influenced the decision:

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.

"Clearly the White House said, ‘We’re going to get EPA out of the way and get California out of the way. If you give us this energy bill, then we’re done, the deal is done,’" said one staffer.

Johnson’s denial of the California waiver came on the heels of President Bush signing a new energy bill, which raises federal fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. If California implements its greenhouse gas limits, automakers will be required to more significantly and rapidly reduce emissions by improving vehicle efficiency to approximately 43 miles per gallon by 2016.

Johnson probably anticipated that a storm would follow his decision, but a formal investigation in such a swift manner was likely not expected. Johnson, and all those involved, will now have to fully explain the reasons behind his decision—bringing the national debate about climate change and auto emissions to even greater prominence.

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