Friday, February 1, 2008

Pollution politics

Looks like the Bush administration is going to have to back down now that Iowa and Florida have asked to join a lawsuit filed by California and 16 other states to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow them to impose tougher vehicle emissions standards than the federal government. The states filed suit after EPA denied California's request for a Clean Air Act waiver that would have permitted the tougher standards without legal action. The case has raised suspicions in Congress that U.S. automakers had pressured the Bush administration, which then pressured EPA to deny the waiver. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, a Bush appointee, said California's emissions limits weren't needed because Congress just passed energy legislation raising fuel economy standards nationwide. But it doesn't take a legal genius to see this one — EPA has it completely backwards, and probably not by accident. It's not like the California regulations would have resulted in dirtier air, which would then have been a cause for EPA concern. The opposite is true. Documents released by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) earlier this month revealed that Johnson overruled his own staff when he denied the waiver. The documents, which were initally withheld from Congress on executive privilege grounds, also revealed that EPA staffers believe California is likely to prevail against the agency in court. California has the toughest vehicle emissions standards in the country because of pollution problems in heavily populated areas, and had been granted waivers more than 50 times. Many of the other states involved have adopted or are considering the California standard.

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