Monday, May 19, 2008

Chutzpah Confirmed

Last December Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), received the Chutzpah of the Week award on the basis of the following report from the Los Angeles Times by Richard Simon and Janet Wilson:

The Bush administration Wednesday denied California's bid to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, dealing a blow to the state's attempts to combat global warming and prompting an immediate vow from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to take the decision to court.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen L. Johnson denied the state's request to implement its own landmark law, noting that an energy bill signed by President Bush earlier in the day would go a long way toward reducing emissions throughout the United States. The bill provides the most significant increase in vehicle fuel economy standards in more than three decades.

The Democratic staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee decided that this case deserved investigation; and, as a follow-up post reported, there were plenty of people, including EPA staff members, who had things to say on the matter. The depositions have now been collected, and the House Committee has issued a report. According to Associated Press Writer Erica Werner, the conclusion appears to be that all the scientific expertise of the EPA staff had been brutally trumped by White House authority:

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency initially supported giving California full or partial permission to limit tailpipe emissions — but reversed himself after hearing from the White House, according to a report Monday.

The report by the Democratic staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which cites sworn depositions by high-level EPA officials, amounts to the first solid evidence of the political interference alleged by Democrats and environmentalists since EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's waiver request in December.

Johnson's decision also blocked more than a dozen other states that wanted to follow California's lead and regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. It was applauded by the auto industry and supported by the White House, which has adamantly opposed mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is that those scientific voices have now been officially acknowledged by the House Democrats. The bad news is that it took half a year to make this much progress. This case thus serves as a harsh reminder of the extent to which the Executive Branch can get its way simply by waging exhaustive wars of attrition (and the environmental conditions keep getting worse).

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