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Sierra Club
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet
RAW: Uncooked Truth, Beyond Belief

Issue #239
January 11, 2008
EPA Gets Fs for Math, Attendance, and Behavior
Josh Dorner

The Bush administration can't pretend it wasn't warned about the consequences of the latest salvo in its epic battle against the environment. This drama has all the familiar elements we've come to expect -- politics before the public interest, foot-dragging, refusing to answer to Congress, simple incompetence, and blatant dishonesty -- set against the backdrop of the global warming battle royale that began last spring with a blockbuster Supreme Court decision. The latest dust-up began December 19th when EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson ended two years of foot-dragging and prevarication by unceremoniously denying California the waiver that would allow it and at least 17 other states to move forward with landmark global emissions standards for autos. The EPA's own staff unanimously recommended approving the waiver and the agency’s legal staff warned of a loss should the agency be sued.

The retaliation was indeed swift. Just a day later, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Sierra Club BFF Rep. Henry Waxman of California, launched an investigation into the matter. Not to be outdone by her Southern California compadre, Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced her own probe into the matter. Finally, California, 15 additional states, the Sierra Club, and other environmental groups filed suit on January 2 to overturn EPA's blatantly unlawful decision.

Boxer immediately requested that EPA turn over all relevant documents by January 7 so that committee staff could review them ahead of a field hearing on the matter that was held yesterday in Los Angeles. Boxer also requested that along with the Sierra Club's own Carl Pope and other California leaders, that Johnson himself appear at the hearing to explain a little more clearly exactly why he’d chosen to deny the waiver.

Johnson immediately set the stage for things to come by refusing to appear -- and disallowing anyone else from EPA to attend. The EPA then upped the ante using a tried and true -- but now tired -- tactic, faxing Boxer at 4:40 p.m. on the day the documents were due to explain that they would try to turn them over by today -- the day after the hearing. How convenient.

In the midst of all of this, EPA displayed an apparent lack of familiarity with basic arithmetic. In denying the waiver, Johnson had argued that the recent boost in fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 would somehow create deeper cuts in global warming emissions than California’s plan to cut them 30 percent by 2016. Turns out EPA loses on both counts. By 2016, the California plan would cut emissions by 17 million metric tons (MMT) -- more than double the 8 MMT achieve by CAFE. By 2020, when CAFE would finally reach 35 mpg, the California standard would equate to roughly 40.4 mpg -- and would result in a 75 percent greater reduction in emissions.

Looks like EPA is due for an appearance on "Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?"

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