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EPA Officials Tell Congress That Agency’s Own Efforts to Regulate Motor Vehicle CO2 Were Halted in December 2007

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A proposal to regulate motor vehicle greenhouse gases developed by EPA would have resulted in a fleet fuel economy much closer to that resulting from implementing the California regulations than the one currently mandated by EISA 2007. Click to enlarge.

Senior EPA officials have told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that, after the agency concluded in December that CO2 emissions were a danger to the United States and proposed significant cuts in motor vehicle emissions, the agency’s regulatory efforts on this were halted.

According to a letter sent by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, EPA officials said that the agency’s analysis showed that motor vehicles could achieve CO2 emission reductions equal to a fleet fuel economy standard of 35 mpg by 2018. This nationwide standard is not as stringent as the California proposal, which called for achieving the equivalent of 35 mpg by 2017 and more than 40 mpg by 2020, but it is “significantly more stringent” than the 35 mpg by 2020 standard set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).

The Committee has been examining the EPA’s denial of the waiver required to enable California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. During this investigation, the new information surfaced on the stalling of EPA’s own efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles on a national level.

The 10-page letter from Congressman Waxman details some of the information provided by the senior EPA officials, and notifies Administrator Johnson of the Committee’s intent to investigate this new matter more thoroughly. The letter requests, as a start:

  • The technical support document prepared by the Office of Atmospheric Programs;

  • The proposed endangerment finding that was transmitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget in December 2007; and

  • The proposed vehicle greenhouse gas rule that was transmitted to NHTSA in December 2007.

Multiple senior EPA officials have told the Committee on the record that after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, you assembled a team of 60 to 70 EPA officials to determine whether carbon dioxide emissions endanger health and welfare and, if so, to develop regulations reducing CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. According to these officials, you agreed with your staff’s proposal that CO2 emissions from motor vehicles should be reduced and in December forwarded an endangerment finding to the White House and a proposed motor vehicle regulation to the Department of Transportation. The proposed regulation would have produced significantly more CO2 reductions than the revised fuel economy standards enacted last year.

The senior EPA officials who spoke with the Committee did not know what transpired inside the White House or the Department of Transportation or what directions the White House may have given you. They do know, however, that since you sent the endangerment finding to the White House, “the work on the vehicle efforts has stopped.” They reported to the Committee that the career officials assigned to the issue have ceased their efforts and have been “awaiting direction” since December.

These accounts raise serious questions. It appears that EPA’s efforts to regulate CO2 emissions have been effectively halted, which would appear to be a violation of the Supreme Court’s directive and an abdication of your responsibility to protect health and the environment from dangerous emissions of CO2.

—Letter from Congressman Waxman

In response to the Supreme Court decision, in May 2007 President Bush signed an executive order directing EPA and other federal agencies to develop regulations to address greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

In response to the executive order, EPA assembled a team “on the order of 60 or 70” to work on the endangerment finding and the regulation of CO2, according to Karl Simon, the Director of the Compliance and Innovative Strategies Division in EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

Fifty-three officials from the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) alone worked on the effort from May through December 2007, according to Margo Oge, Director OTAQ. These staff resources were supplemented by outside contractor resources with a $5.3 million budget in FY 2007.

The Office of Atmospheric Programs prepared multiple drafts of a technical support document that generated “about 500 comments” from internal EPA review, external Federal expert review and other interagency comments. Agencies that reviewed this document included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The career staff concluded that CO2 emissions endanger both human health and welfare, according to the information provided to the committee.

According to EPA staff, the resulting proposal to regulate CO2 emissions from motor vehicles was about 300 pages long, with extensive cost/benefit analysis. The proposal was developed in conjunction with NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the Federal administration in charge of CAFE.

According to your staff, you [Johnson] supported their recommendations on two key points: (1) you agreed that CO2 emissions endanger welfare and (2) you backed their proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. The main staff recommendation you rejected was the staff finding that CO2 emissions also endangered human health. Five separate EPA officials told the Committee that you personally made the decision to exclude public health from the endangerment finding.

...The career EPA staff who the Committee interviewed did not know what communications you or other political appointees in the agency may have had with White House officials. But they did tell the Committee that after the White House received the endangerment finding and the Department of Transportation received the proposed motor vehicle regulation, work on the finding and regulation was stopped.

...According to EPA staff they have been informed that work has been discontinued so that EPA’s activities can be reassessed in light of enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

...As a legal matter, the passage of provisions in the Energy Independence and Security Act requiring the Department of Transportation to strengthen federal CAFE standards does not affect EPA’s legal obligation to regulate CO2 emissions. The Act included language to ensure that a change in CAFE requirements did not affect the Clean Air Act’s provisions. Moreover, the Supreme Court held in Massachusetts v. EPA: “The fact that DOT’s mandate to promote energy efficiency by setting mileage standards may overlap with EPA’s environmental responsibilities in no way licenses EPA to shirk its duty to protect the public health and welfare.

—Letter from Congressman Waxman

Comments

Herm

Thank God!

Lucas


Your God commands you to care for the world he has given you.

Sounds like you worship the Devil.

aym

Now why is this a surprise. Another reason to think GWB Jr will go down as one of the most incompetent presidents ever. Nothing like ideological based practices taking over.

DS

incompetent??? Hell no. He's accomplished everything he was sElected to do.

Cervus

So, after all that speech that regulating CO2 should be a national matter, after spending millions of dollars to create a complete set of new regulations with cost-benefit analysis included... nothing happens. And for all we know it was better than what California came up with. But it was thrown under a bus.

Even if you do happen to agree with this decision, the manner that it was decided goes against the rule of law. And that is far more dear to me than any disagreements over global warming science or goverment policy.

At least Bush can only serve two terms.

GdB

You're talking semantics. Both he and those who elected him are incompetent.


N.A.P.

The laws governing allowable vehicle emissions and fuel mileage in this country, along with the gas-hog vehicle models that continue to be marketed and sold to this very moment, are bathed in the blood of American soldiers and continue to be marinated in it as well. We in this country have set a horrible example of gluttony that China, India and other industrial-explosion nations now feel is their entitlement, and so follow suit. Our current and past presidents and congresses have all succombed to temptation, lobbyists and/or campaign favors and not fought to protect our people or our planet. Our citizens, for the large part, refuse now to make ethical choices or sacrifice because they have been lulled into thinking this bad behavior and selfishness could go on indefinitely without consequences to themselves, their descendents or our planet. They are ALL WRONG. Action is needed NOW. Each day, the seconds tick away toward irreversible lines regarding world peace and planet rescue.

Al Fin

Not a bad idea.

GreenPlease

I ran accross an interesting idea the other day:

Raise the gas tax but lower income tax proportionately. Most people will say "that's a stupid and round about way to do things" but there is some logic:
-the income tax would be lowered the most on low income families to reduce initial economic shock
-the income tax would be reduced to lesser degrees higher up the tax bracket
-the effect will essentially be very high pump prices on the order of $5,$6, or even $7 a gallon. Few people (that I have talked to) really know what portion of their income they spend on gasoline. Instead they usually say "a lot" or "too much." The sticker shock of routinely spending $100-140 will force them to purchase a more efficient vehicle or seek alternative transportation.

GreenPlease

Something I forgot to add is that a portion of that tax could be used to build batteries for PHEV's. In theory:

-U.S. Gasoline consumption: 15mbpd, 5.47Gb/y, or 230 billion gallons per year
-Average price for 2007 $3.00 (optimistic), say 100% gas tax...
-$690billion in tax revenues. Let's say half of that is diverted to make up from reduced income tax receipts. That leaves us with $345billion.
-At $0.50/W, we could build 690,000,000,000W, or 690,000,000kW of batteries. If we were to deploy 10kW/h battery packs 69,000,000/year could be built.
-At some point, private businesses could purchase these from the government and lease them to consumers (oil companies, utilities, coal, nuke, and the rest of coporate America). I figure if the big boys are allowed to make a profit and get first dibs they will be more likely to play along.

Treehugger

N.A.P

It couldn't be said with better words

Thanks

wintermane

As I see your bwing cluwlwaa ukk hwlp hwew.

1 Bush jad nothing to do with any of this. It is just a side effect of how politics works that someone else beat the epa to the finish line and forced in something that passed . This both consumed all the political energy for such am amdevor it ALSO made it immpossible in the time left to all political apoinyees. This effectively means that its the next administrations job and always was.

2 Bush didnt realy care between an end date of 2017 and 2020 as long as it started and wasnt impeachment peoceedings;/

3 the political doece behind the current act was wise spread and on all sides and involved alot of deals many not involving bush or even republicans at all.. just politicers and buricritters doing what they do best.



Might as well blame bush for talk radio spam and plague...

Nick

Greenplease:

You would need to tune this approach to take into account that the lowest income earners don't pay any income tax; they do pay a lot in 'payroll' taxes (SSA, etc). So they would feel the pain but not see any gain, unless you gave them a tax credit, preferably one that they get every pay period as a sort of 'reverse withholding'.

Otherwise, I'm with you.

DS

You're forgetting your Meds again wintermane.

wintermane

Igvin in biem st upi hpoomh yp jsdd;r ,r snpiy ,u ,rfdzz/ pmy'y nr s fovljrsf/

John Taylor

So EPA officials finally told Congress on the Bush Bunch.
(after over a year of waffelling).

Now to find a way back to reality and stop wrecking the planet while a few selfish idiots get rich.

Will the wake up call do any good? ... Hard to say. So far the republicans still manage near 50% support for the next incompetent Bush-alike, and Ralph Nader sits at a 5% no-show.

Arnold

blame bush, the epa , the system , anyone but ourselves and the consumerist live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself attitude.
The Adonis of wealth and conspicious consumption, as long as you are with the "in crowd" look the other way and the beautiful people (who never ever get their hands dirty).
Obviosly never been a part of family.
But that's the game just dont let reality , or other peoples reality contaminate the good times we could all be having if those lazy good for nothing subhumans would only work harder for less.
Then at least I'll be right and the rest well lets call it Karma!
Good one western white gods.

Neil

WINTERMANE: ANY CHANCE OF GETTING THAT CATARACT OPERATION? YOU NEED A KEYBOARD THAT HAS "BUMPS" ON THE "F" AND "J" KEYS SO YOU CAN TELL WHERE YOUR HANDS ARE.

Bob Bastard

Arnold, were you high when you posted that?

ai_vin

Bob
I don't know what you're problem is but I, for one, understood every word of Arnold's post.

Kevin

Here is the point.

The US has an environmental protection agency to advise political leadership. The politico's instead of taking that advice, hid it until a deal for less stringent limits could be thrashed out.

If we let the politico's get away with this (in this case the Bush White House, but all politics is dirty to some degree, sorry obamaites, but its true), then we break the process of checks and balances which is intended to control our politicians, and, in this case, we screw up our world, just so that GM can carry on building trucks the size of houses!

wintermane

I have home keys... I just am the genghis khan of typing and am yaa still blind as a bat.

Anyway no the admin didnt HIDE anything as its been said already the report was sent everywhere and got comment back from everywhere. As far as bush.. give it a rest.. hes not a genius and 2017 vs 2020 likely sounded like a completely ok compromise to get SOMETHING signed this decade. Dont forget folks the 2017 deal barely made it in time and anything more would have resulted in failure to get started till likely 2011 and thuis go into effect 2015 and thus would have been WORSE.

sjc

Christine Todd Whitman, the first EPA leader for GW quit in the first few years because she realized that that group had no intention of protecting the environment. Whitman was not a left winger, the was a conservative that worked in favor of business, but was too "liberal" to stay at EPA.

Bob Bastard

ai_vin, I think I understood the first sentence. Maybe you could parse the rest of it out for me. From my point of view, it reads like an incoherent THC induced ramble; more legible, but about as easily understood as one of Wintermane's posts.

Arnold

An incoherent comment about a system that (apparently) works for a few, reflective of the status quo, who scream loudly when that economic lifestyle is under threat.
expressing of frustration of the confliction of interest which frame humanity and nature in this age.
It's quite obvious that some difficult times are ahead for large swathes of humanity At home and abroard, while so many politicians and vested interests manouvere strategic self interests.
Social economic models that work to the degree they do are likely to severly let down the (majority?) of participants as energy becomes restricted to those with apparently secure futures.
Much needs to be done here as this is the bigger picture that is barely described.
While of course many concerned persons offer helpfull advice and analysis.
About as likely to get legs as ?
The economic status quo which places the burden on the least able seems to be the best biggest hammer that the legislators can come up with for now. As could rationally be expected.
This article descrbes how this is occouring.

Just high on life and free speech.

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