Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Car gate! DOT employee urges members of Congress to oppose California global warming standards

This has the scent of a genuine scandal. And it is unfortunate evidence that at least some within the Bush administration are scheming against the efforts by California – and other states – to limit global warming emissions from cars.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has just written to the Secretary of Transportation, alerting her that a Department of Transportation employee has urged members of Congress to oppose efforts by California and other states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

“Such an effort by the Department appears to be highly inappropriate and would be considered by some to be illegal. I am writing to request your assistance in providing the Oversight Committee with information regarding this matter,” Waxman noted in his letter.

He noted that “the staff of a member of Congress recently received a voicemail message from Heideh Shahmoradi, special assistant for governmental affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, suggesting that the member (1) submit comments to EPA opposing California's request and (2) reach out to your governor's office for them to submit comments since this would greatly impact auto facilities within your district." The voicemail stated:

Hi ... this is Heideh Shahmoradi out here with the Department of Transportation. I'm not sure if you're aware but EPA is currently considering a petition from the State of Califomia to set its own CO2 standards. We just wanted to let you know that if Califomia were to receive this waiver it could lead to a patchwork of regulations on vehicle emissions which could have significant impacts on the light truck and car industry. EPA is currently receiving the comments and the docket is open until June 15th, however tomorrow the EPA Administrator will decide whether or not to extend that deadline. We're gauging to see if your boss would be interested in submitting comments or reaching out to your governor's office for them to submit comments to the docket, since this would greatly impact the auto facilities within your district. ... If you could just call me and see if you guys have any interest, or, if you guys are going, or, would like to submit comments, or need any further information, I could get that to you. ... Thanks a lot, appreciate it, bye-bye.”

Waxman noted “It is not an appropriate use of federal resources to lobby members of Congress to oppose state efforts to protect the environment. It is especially problematic on an issue that is pending for decision before the Administration and that is supposed to be decided based on an independent assessment of the merits. At the very least, Ms. Shamoradi's call suggests the presence of an improper hidden agenda.”

I request that you explain the purpose of Ms. Shahmoradi's message, whether similar communications were made to other congtessional offices, whether other Department of Transportation employees were involved in such communications, and who at the Department
authorized these communications. In addition, I request that you provide to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform all documents relating to (1) communications with members of Congress or their staffs regarding the California waiver request or (2) communications with EPA or other federal entities, including the White House, regarding the California waiver request.

Finally, I request that the Department make Ms. Shahmoradi available for a transcribed interview or deposition by Committee staff.”

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