Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Unsurprising News

I don't know which is more unsurprising: that the White House overruled a tentative decision by the administrator of the EPA when it came to California's request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act or that the administrator lied about the White House pressure before Congress. From today's Washington Post:

A former Environmental Protection Agency official yesterday contradicted EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson's congressional testimony on one of the administration's key global warming decisions, saying the White House ordered Johnson to block California's bid to regulate vehicles' tailpipe emissions.

On Jan. 24, Johnson told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee under oath that he had made the decision on his own after determining there was no compelling evidence to justify California's plans. "The responsibility for making the decision for California rests with me and solely with me," Johnson said at the time. "I made the decision. It was my decision. It was the right decision."

Yesterday, however, former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett -- who resigned last month and has since divulged key details about how President Bush and his deputies have influenced the agency's decisions on climate policy -- testified before the committee that Johnson had concluded that California's request was legally justified -- until White House officials ordered him to reverse the decision. ...

Burnett told the panel that Johnson had concluded that California had met the legal requirement for a waiver by showing it faced "compelling and extraordinary circumstances" in light of the threat that climate change poses to the state.

"There was no reasonable defense of a denial," Burnett said, adding that Johnson had initially agreed to grant California a "partial waiver" lasting several years. ...

Johnson also testified about the waiver decision before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 20, making similar statements and refusing to discuss conversations he had on the matter with either Bush or his top aides on the grounds that it would violate executive privilege.
[Emphasis added]

The waiver requested by California, tailored to reduce tailpipe emissions, would have required required an increase in fuel efficiency standards. The White House knew that Congress was already talking about a new CAFE standard, and also knew that its buddies in the oil and auto making industries would get a better deal from Congress than they'd get in a state plagued by poor air quality. Using the excuse that a nationwide standard made more sense than a state-by-state crazy-quilt on the issue, the White House leaned on its own appointee, and the Bushie caved. And then the Bushie, under oath, lied to Congress about the White House role on two separate occasions.

Heckuva job, Mr. Johnson.

181 days.

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