The US Environmental Protection Agency today opened the public comment period on California’s nearly 16-month-old request for a federal waiver to begin regulating automotive greenhouse gas emissions. This marks the agency’s first official action in response to the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. (Earlier post.)
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced the opening of the period during testimony in a hearing before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the implications of that Supreme Court decision.
Just this morning, we signed the formal notice that starts the public process for considering the California waiver petition...this is keeping with my and the agency’s committment to expeditiously begin the process following the Supreme Court ruling. The decision we make in response to Massachusetts v. EPA will be integrated in the Administration’s existing climate policy and will build on the progress we’ve already achieved.—Stephen Johnson
The Clean Air Act allows California to set its own emissions standards, provided that it gets a routine waiver from the EPA. EPA’s granting of a federal waiver to California is thus the next step in the regulatory process. California has never been denied a waiver in past instances of other regulatory action, according to Johnson.
The EPA is accepting written comments on the waiver petition through 15 June, and will hold a hearing on 22 May in Washington, DC on the matter. Johnson would not commit to a timeline to processing the waiver following the closing of the public comment period, saying that the time required would depend upon the nature of the comments. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the chair of the committee, said that the committee would call Johnson back after the closure of the public period to push for a timeline.
This waiver means that our states can continue to play a leadership role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions from cars. We applaud EPA’s opening the waiver process, but we want a fast timetable and no stalling. To that end, we will call EPA back before the Committee as soon as they have closed the comment period on June 15. We expect action by the middle of this summer.
Mr. Johnson used the word ‘complex’ many times. The Supreme Court case is not complex. It is clear. EPA should grant the waiver to California and the 11 other states who have asked for it, and they should make an endangerment finding that global warming emissions are a danger and will be controlled by law.—Senator Boxer
Also testifying before the committee was David Doniger, Policy Director and Senior Attorney, Climate Center for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Doniger characterized the Supreme Court’s decision has having four immediate consequences:
First, the EPA must decide afresh whether to set greenhouse gas emission standards for new motor vehicles under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act. The Court clearly stated that this decision must be based on the science, and the science only.
Second, the decision removes the major obstacle to state initiatives, led by California, to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
Third, the Supreme Court’s decision has implications for other pending global warming litigation, with a parallel case on power plants at the top of the list.
Fourth, the Supreme Court’s decision has added new momentum to the legislative process.
Full Committee Hearing on “The Implications of the Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding EPA’s Authorities with Respect to Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act.” (Including archived webcast)