Senate Bucks Greenhouse Gas Rules to Next Administration

By Published On: September 26, 2008

A U.S. Senate committee hearing continued to pick at the Environmental Protection Agency for its decision not to grant California a waiver to allow the state to enforce its own greenhouse gas emissions rules. Republican senators continued to insist that enforcing greenhouse gas reductions will harm the economy. Lawmakers wanted to know why little progress had been made towards EPA’s global warming gas emissions regulation and who in the Bush administration made the decision to deny California’s waiver applications to set stricter vehicle emissions standards during a September 23 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), panel chair, opened the hearing with a review of the 2007 Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency Supreme Court decision. In it the justrices ruled the EPA has authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases and is required to review its discretion to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. A subsequent Senate majority report found that greenhouse gases fall within the Clean Air Act. Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, criticized “slow walking” on new greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act by the Bush Administration. She urged Congress to act, saying, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger enthusiastically supports Boxer’s efforts to pull together an economy-wide program, something the U.S. could take to the international community to use as a basis for a global solution. Nichols believes the EPA should use its legal authority under the Clean Air Act to move forward without additional authorization. Senators questioned a five-member panel of expert witnesses. Robert Meyers EPA’s principal deputy assistant, office of air and radiation, testified as to what little he knew about meetings last December between EPA administrator Stephen Johnson and White House officials that resulted in Johnson’s waiver denial letter to California February 28. Meyers shed little light on meetings on how the final decision was made. Johnson was characterized by a few committee members as being in hiding since the denial. Senator James Inhofe (D-OK) noted that the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill failed to gain Senate support because it would “devastate the economy” by driving U.S. companies to foreign nations without emission restrictions. Inhofe said this conclusion was supported by a study provided by EPA during Senate debate. When EPA will enact greenhouse gas regulations was a hot topic. Meyers said the 120-day Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ends November 28 and that the incoming administration will take it from there. He asserted it will benefit from notice feedback and an endangerment analysis done to date. He projected greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act would take several years. . Senators were concerned about the Wall Street crisis, the high cost of energy, and the impact that new greenhouse regulations under the Clean Air Act would have on a weak economy. Some senators leaned towards new compromise legislation that would be less intrusive on the economy, avoid the dangers of delays, costs and legal entanglements, and avoid raising carbon input costs outside an international agreement with the world’s major emitters. Mike Breslin Editors’ note: For a more detailed version of this story, please see our sister publication E=MC2 – Energy Meets Climate Challenge. You can find it at Edited By

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