Politics Trumps All at the EPA

Wow. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson yesterday denied California's petition to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for cars and trucks in the state. Mr. Johnson certainly doesn't speak for the EPA's own legal and technical experts who, by all accounts, disagree with his reasoning.

There is no legal basis for the decision. Several recent court rulings have backed up the rights of states to regulate vehicle emissions. The EPA's own advisers are confident that the agency will lose the suits that are certain to follow.

Mr. Johnson's own rationale for the decision holds no water. He says the just-signed energy bill has a stronger emissions reduction plan and that a patchwork of state regulations must be avoided at all costs. Yet he plays fast and loose with the facts to rate the federal law's restrictions more stringent than California's, and the "patchwork" of regulations being adopted by states both red and blue are in fact one single set of standards: California's.

What Mr. Johnson's baseless decision really reflects is the howling of the traditional auto industry funnelled through Dick Cheney and an administration determined to defend oil to the last. The battle to follow will be between those clinging desperately to old businesses, determined to keep the gravy train running, and those ready to make the leap to new models and clean technologies, and hoping for smart regulation that will ensure a level playing field for innovation and competition.

In fact, in this latest travesty one can hardly blame the automakers for playing tough by the existing rules. But shame on the Bush administration for abdicating its responsibility for the national welfare by not only failing to provide a regulating structure to incentivize the necessary transformation of industry, but actually preventing the states from filling the leadership vacuum.

More details from The Washington Post here.

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