The weakened energy bill ultimately passed last week and signed into law by President Bush today is the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season.
Today, US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's petition for a waiver allowing it and a dozen other states (both blue and red) to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks, using the just enacted energy bill to claim that the Bush Administration is already doing its part to combat global warming.
An EPA press release spun it this way:
The Bush Administration is moving forward with a national solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from American vehicles. The new energy legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush this week provides a federal fuel economy standard that offers environmental benefits, energy security and economic certainty for the nation.
"The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules – to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles," said U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "President Bush and Congress have set the bar high, and, when fully implemented, our federal fuel economy standard will achieve significant benefits by applying to all 50 states.”OK, now that you've vomited over this steaming pile of bullshite, lets move on...
David Roberts at Gristmill quickly pointed out that Administrator Johnson's arguments are full of more holes than a piece of swiss cheese:
The [EPA] announcement came with a veritable torrent of dishonest spin. Let me try to disentangle some of it.
1. Johnson leaned heavily on today's passage of the energy bill, saying that a "uniform national standard" is preferable to a "confusing patchwork of state standards."
The "patchwork" line is completely disingenuous. There aren't multiple standards in different states. There's one: California's standard, which other states can choose by law to adopt, or not.
2. Johnson said that he'd had "hours and hours" of briefing from the EPA's "world-class professional staff," which provided him with many "pros and cons" upon which he based his decision.
There's good reason to believe this is false. According to House Oversight Committee chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and other sources, the EPA's professional staff was cut out of the debate (PDF), which proceeded almost entirely on political grounds. Indeed, EPA staff overwhelmingly believes that the waiver should be granted.
3. Johnson asserted that the newly passed CAFE standards (35mpg) are tougher than California's standards, which he said would amount to 33.5mpg.
The reason automakers have lobbied the White House so hard to get this decision is that California's standards are tougher than the new federal standards. The 33.5mpg number appears to have been pulled out of Johnson's rear. Regardless, the Calif. standards were always meant to be ramped steadily up over time, in keeping with their climate change action plan (the current standards go through about 2016). Make no mistake: this is a gift to automakers. [Jesse notes: the 33.5mpg number is the 2016 target for the California standard, which Johnson compares to the 2020 CAFE standard target (35 mpg), which I should also point out is actually only 33.8 mpg because the flex fuel vehicle loophole inserted into the final energy bill decreases the standard by 1.2 mpg... Fun with numbers!]
4. Johnson said he was denying the waiver on the basis of section 209 of the Clean Air Act. He said this request for a waiver was "distinct from all prior requests," in that the previous requests regarded local pollutants, and GHGs are global pollutants. Thus, California does not meet the "compelling and extraordinary conditions" called for by the Act.
This flies in the face of the clear language of the CAA and the just-passed energy bill, both of which explicitly reserve for California the right to exceed federal fuel economy standards. Johnson's legal reasoning has no support outside of Bush administration political appointees.
In short, as Johnson all but admitted, this decision was made based on a "policy preference" of the White House -- exactly what was prohibited by the Supreme Court's ruling in Mass. v. EPA.
Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. are preparing an immediate lawsuit. Sen. Barbara Boxer said she is "prepared to take all measures to overturn this harmful decision" via legislation. Waxman says his Oversight Committee will immediately launch an investigation into how the decision was made.This isn't over, but it'll delay things even longer, as President Bush once again proves he's Climate Energy #1.