Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Running interference

The Bush administration is trying to hide something -- most likely, the involvement of auto industry executives -- in last month's decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny California's request to impose tougher vehicle emissions standards than the federal government. Documents released today by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) reveal that agency staff supported granting the waiver, which would be the first ever on carbon emissions and is opposed by automakers. Boxer's Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee is investigating the EPA's decision, and the agency sent over documents that were heavily edited, apparently to hide whatever the administration wanted hidden. But committee staff then released unedited copies of the documents. California filed suit Jan. 2 to challenge the decision. The documents also say agency staff believe EPA will lose the California suit but would prevail in a lawsuit from auto manufacturers. The industry favors new federal regulations that mandate a smaller increase in fuel economy than California's rules, which are backed by 11 other states. EPA chief Stephen Johnson is scheduled to testify before the committee on Thursday.

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