Bush Admin tramples States’ Rights … Again

This evening, shortly after George W. Bush signed the weakened Energy Bill into law, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson announced that California (and the 16 states that had pledged to adopt California’s standards) will not be granted a waiver from the clean air act to put stricter pollution controls on vehicles and drive a higher CAFE standard than is included in the Energy Independence and (in) Security Act.

According to the EPA’s press release

The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution — not a confusing patchwork of state rules — to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles. President Bush and Congress have set the bar high, and, when fully implemented, our federal fuel economy standard will achieve significant benefits by applying to all 50 states

What does that mean? States’ rights advocates should be up in arms since the Bush Administration says that states can’t taken stronger action than the Federal government, or at least when they are trying to act in the interests of the general public and tomorrow’s unborn citizens. 

The Bush Admin solution for Global Warming? Kick the ball as far to the right as possible and do nothing.  As per David Roberts at Grist, this press release and the justifications expressed would be called truthiness, except that might insult the word.

This is a serious step backwards and a victory for those auto industry troglodytes that have been fighting stricter emissions standards tooth and nail. California has already pledged to go back to court to fight EPA’s decision. Will they have their day in court before there is a new EPA Administrator come 2009?

So, who was following California? States that have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, California’s strict automobile emissions standards are: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. 

What are reactions by some sane voices being driven insane?

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (okay, semi-sane …)

“While the federal energy bill is a good step toward reducing dependence on foreign oil, the President’s approval of it does not constitute grounds for denying our waiver.   It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation. We will continue to fight this battle.  California sued to compel the agency to act on our waiver, and now we will sue to overturn today’s decision and allow Californians to protect our environment.”  

Congressman Ed Markey

“Just hours after signing Congress’ fuel economy bill as a holiday present to America, the president replaced that goodwill with a big lump of coal by denying California, Massachusetts and other states their right to limit global warming pollution from vehicles.

“To say that states don’t have a ‘compelling reason’ to regulate global warming ignores the Supreme Court, it ignores the climate crisis we all face, and it ignores the rights of states to decide how aggressive they want to be on pollution control.

“It should not be surprising that this Administration would find that it is ‘not compelling’ to protect this nation from the looming catastrophe of climate change. In fact, it is one more piece of evidence that the administration is not prepared to protect the public when it comes to the emission of greenhouse gases.

“Congress has made clear that California has the authority under the Clean Air Act to go beyond national federal standards for cars in light of its special clean air needs. After objecting loudly to a national standard for renewable electricity because it preferred a state-by-state approach, now the administration is saying a state standard for cars is wrong and would be trumped by national law.

“These aggressive standards would not be patchwork, as more than a dozen states, and now Canada, are looking to follow California and cut global warming emissions would represent a significant percentage of the North American auto sector.

“This country has benefited time and again from allowing the states to go beyond minimum federal standards. Denying this waiver says that in the case of automobiles, the states are stuck in first gear. It is not forward looking, it is not protective of the public health, and it a sad retreat on the progress that Congress is trying to make with the passage of the energy bill this week.”

Friends of the Earth:

“There is absolutely no reason for the Bush administration to block California’s effort to fight global warming. Today’s EPA decision is a major setback in the global warming fight and a slap in the face to all of the states that have moved forward when the federal government would not. This decision cements the United States’ reputation as the nation holding the rest of the world back at a time when our leadership is desperately needed. One can only hope that the next administration will play a more constructive role.”

David Doniger, NRDC Climate Center Policy Director:

The California standards are the single most effective step yet taken in the United States to curb global warming. By blocking the California standards, the administration has stuck a thumb in the eye of 18 governors from both red and blue states who have led the way on global warming by adopting these landmark rules.

EPA Administrator Steven Johnson’s claim that California lacks ‘compelling and extraordinary conditions’ is completely indefensible. California is suffering severe impacts from global warming. Mr. Johnson’s ‘policy preference’ for a different approach is exactly the kind of illegal free-lancing the Supreme Court rejected in its landmark April decision on global warming.

Congressman Henry Waxman’s response:

EPA’s decision ignores the law, science, and commonsense. This is a policy dictated by politics and ideology, not facts. The Committee will be investigating how and why this decision was made.

And, in the energy blogosphere, some excellent discussions:

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