It was classic showdown. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) threw down the gauntlet after a long-awaited smoking document appeared. She and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson, who was a no show at an earlier hearing in Los Angeles, stood on their respective sides, with hands next to their holsters. During a January 24 U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee investigation, Boxer held up a newly leaked EPA staff document that advised Johnson not to deny California\u2019s waiver request to implement its vehicle carbon emissions reduction law because of the state\u2019s \u201ccompelling and extraordinary interest\u201d to protect itself against global warming impacts. Enforcement of the state emissions law for autos, AB 1493, is contingent on federal agency approval. So too are the success of the Golden State\u2019s greenhouse gas emission curbs under AB 32, which seeks carbon cuts from far more than cars. Targeted by the law are also power plants, oil refineries, and other large stationary polluting sources. Vehicles are the largest source of carbon dioxide gases in California, followed by power plants. The less cars are regulated the more fossil projects feeding the state may be. \u201cYou are going against your own agency\u2019s mission, and fulfilling the mission of special interests,\u201d Boxer told a stone-faced Johnson, who rejected California\u2019s \u201cwaiver\u201d request last month. She added his decision impacts more than half the people in the U.S. That is because 15 other states have backed standards the same as the Golden State\u2019s to reduce carbon vehicle emissions. The state laws can only be implemented if EPA approves California\u2019s waiver. \u201cYou\u2019re walking the American taxpayers into a lawsuit that you are going to lose, spending money we don\u2019t have,\u201d Boxer fumed. \u201cMy job is to make the right decision, not the easy decision,\u201d replied Johnson, who was put under oath. He claimed again that he rejected California\u2019s waiver request because it lacked an \u201cexclusive or unique interest\u201d in reducing greenhouse gases. It was a gun slinging contest reminiscent of the multi-billion dollar shoot out between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and California after the 2000-01 energy crisis. Last month, Boxer demanded that Johnson turn over the material used to justify his unprecedented denial of California\u2019s request for a Clean Air Act waiver. She pointed to findings showing specific climate change impacts to California, including to its ecosystems, water supply, and other resources, as well as wildfire impacts. EPA officials initially promised to deliver the documents, insisting, however, that committee chair Boxer\u2019s January 7 deadline was too stringent. Then, the cowboys in the black hats did a classic bait and switch. They turned over only a fraction of the documents. To add insult to injury, the information delivered contained large swaths of whited-out text. Holding a large tangle of used tape, Boxer complained during this week\u2019s hearing that her staff had to pull white tape off the EPA documents to reveal the underlying text. \u201cWhat a waste of our time. This isn\u2019t national security, this isn\u2019t confidential,\u201d she exclaimed. Her theatrics would have made former Hollywood star, state governor and President Ronald Reagan proud. Surprising as it may seem, the Gipper helped California win the right to set its own auto emissions standards under the Clean Air Act back when Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House. While the \u201cGreat Communicator\u201d is far better known for blaming trees for smog, Reagan knew he had to take steps to reduce noxious smog in Tinsel Town and the surrounding region and that cleaning up the auto was crucial. Now the issue is about more than cars and smog in California. It is also about the power market and the carbon footprint of oil refineries, cement factories and other major global warming polluters. Boxer and many of her colleagues complained that Johnson\u2019s unprecedented denial infringed on state rights to protect their citizens from havoc wreaked by carbon driven climate change. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), paraphrasing Bob Dylan\u2019s lyrics from \u201cThe Times They Are A-Changin\u2019,\u201d told Johnson and the Bush Administration, \u201cGet out of the road if you can\u2019t lend a hand.\u201d The EPA chief provided no new information to the committee this week, which came as no surprise. For the last two years, the Bush Administration\u2019s has stonewalled California politicians and lawmakers. It made repeated excuses for not making a decision, and few expected EPA to approve the request although a denial stood on shaky legal ground. Revealing the documents supporting the denial would inhibit agency staff\u2019s \u201chonest and open opinions and analysis\u201d and violate the agency\u2019s attorney-client privilege, claimed Christopher Biley, EPA associate administrator, in a letter to Boxer at the end of last week. \u201cFurther disclosure of this type of confidential information could jeopardize the Agency\u2019s ability to effectively litigate claims related to California\u2019s waiver request,\u201d Bliley added. The waiver denial was the first one since Reagan helped the state win its first vehicle emissions regulations, which were set before any federal standards. It is also noteworthy that his action while governor helped cement California\u2019s leadership in the environmental arena. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) told Johnson his denial was \u201can affront to federalism and an affront to our states\u2019 ability to protect their citizens and develop national policy.\u201d You could almost feel the Gipper rolling over in his grave. After all, he was a state\u2019s right man when he moved into the Oval Office. Under Reagan, many state environmental programs flourished. Boxer\u2019s January 24 investigation came three weeks after California joined with 15 other states that adopted the standard to ask a federal court to overturn Johnson\u2019s December 19 denial of the Golden State\u2019s Clean Air Act waiver request. The EPA administrator asserted last month that a boost in the corporate average fuel economy standard for cars to 35 miles a gallon by 2020 did away with the need for California\u2019s rules and prevents a patchwork of state standards. The increase in the mileage rules was included in federal energy legislation, known as H.R. 6, enacted at the end of last year. Johnson, however, denied during the January 24 hearing that the President\u2019s signing of H.R. 6 the day he issued his denial via an evening press release was unrelated. Johnson claimed that that additional supporting EPA documentation would be released February 15. Outside the hearing, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger blasted the EPA\u2019s purported rationale for denying the state a waiver as \u201cunsound,\u201d in a January 23 letter. It highlights the vastly differing world views of his Republican administration and that of Johnson\u2019s boss, President George W. Bush. In a repeat of history, the state has passed bold measures to cut emissions, this time greenhouse gases. But today, the feds and California stand at opposite sides of the saloon. So much so that it makes you want to see the Gipper ride again.