Guess who's trying to kill the Golden State's emissions standards.
Friday, June 8, 2007
THERE IS a bald attempt in Congress to short-circuit California's effort to regulate tailpipe emissions -- with Democrats leading the charge. A bill from the chairman of the House energy and air quality subcommittee, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va. -- or is that D-Big Coal?), would halt recent moves by states to limit the emission of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. He insists, "This is not an attack on California." Color us unconvinced.
The Supreme Court ruled in April that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, California has asked the EPA to do something it has done more than 40 times over the past 30 years: waive the agency's emissions rules to allow the state's more stringent regulations to take effect. That would mean a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from car and light truck tailpipes by 2016, starting with the 2009 model year. Eleven other states have signed on to California's bold new standards. The only thing standing in the way is the EPA. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) asked for the waiver in December 2005; he has threatened to sue if it is not granted within six months.
Because California's tough air pollution laws predate those of the federal government, the Clean Air Act allowed the state to devise its own laws, as long as they are not arbitrary and are at least as stringent as national regulations. Now comes Mr. Boucher's bill to bar any waiver if the EPA administrator finds that "such State standards are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Regulating carbon dioxide emissions from tailpipes "is the functional equivalent" of regulating fuel economy, a domain of the Transportation Department, Mr. Boucher told us. As a result, "We have gone from one regulatory agency to two or three when it comes to regulating fuel economy," he said, referring to the EPA, the Transportation Department and California. By making DOT the sole regulator, Mr. Boucher told us, "We are making order out of confusion."
He's right in saying that strong federal leadership would be ideal. What California is seeking permission to do wouldn't be necessary if the federal government had been serious about air pollution (initially) and global warming (now). But from President Bush to industry-beholden members of Congress, there has been little stomach for facing down the automakers or the coal and electricity industries, which together account for 60 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California vowed Tuesday to oppose any legislation coming to the floor that undermines California's emissions plan and strips the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Ms. Pelosi should gird for battle.