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Heat on EPA after Calif. greenhouse gas denial

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Heat on EPA after Calif. greenhouse gas denial

Democrats to investigate agency, Bush stands behind its leader

WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats on Thursday announced an investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to let California implement its tailpipe emissions law, the first step in what will likely be a fierce legal and political battle.House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson demanding “all documents relating to the California waiver request, other than those that are available on the public record.”

Waxman told Johnson to have EPA staff preserve all records. The decision against California “appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” Waxman wrote. He asked for all the relevant documents by Jan. 23.

Johnson on Wednesday denied his decision was political, saying it was based on legal analysis of the Clean Air Act. His refusal blocks California and at least 16 other states that wanted to adopt California’s law slashing greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks by a third.

President Bush stood by the decision of his EPA administrator.

“The question is how to have an effective strategy. Is it more effective to let each state make a decision as to how to proceed in curbing greenhouse gases or is it more effective to have a national strategy,” Bush said at a news conference Thursday.

Johnson said California’s emissions limits weren’t needed because Congress just passed energy legislation raising fuel economy standards nationwide.

“The director in assessing this law and assessing what would be more effective for the country said we now have a national plan,” said Bush. “It’s one of the benefits of Congress passing this legislation.”

Johnson’s long-awaited announcement provoked applause from the auto industry, but an outcry of protest from environmentalists, congressional Democrats and officials in California and other affected states. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately announced plans to fight EPA’s decision.

“It is completely absurd to assert that California does not have a compelling need to fight global warming by curbing greenhouse gas emissions from cars,” California Attorney General Jerry Brown said. “There is absolutely no legal justification for the Bush administration to deny this request — Gov. Schwarzenegger and I are preparing to sue at the earliest possible moment.”

The tailpipe standards California adopted in 2004 would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks beginning in the 2009 model year.

Under the Clean Air Act, the state needed a federal waiver to implement the rules, and other states could then adopt them too.




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