Even an administration with a stunning history of ignoring science and law for the sake of ideology outdid itself Wednesday, when the Environmental Protection Agency spiked California's groundbreaking effort to reduce global warming emissions from vehicles. From the timing of the announcement to its twisted justification, this was a decision that reeked of politics, not responsible policymaking.
California has been trying since 2005 to get a waiver from the EPA allowing it to crack down on tailpipe emissions, a crucial part of its effort to cut greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. When it became clear that the agency couldn't keep stalling, it finally announced its decision on the same day that President Bush signed an energy bill that tightens fuel-economy standards, providing a convenient excuse for the rejection: California's standards aren't needed because Congress has already moved to reduce vehicle emissions.
None of the reasons for the rejection cited by EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson are legally defensible, or even logically consistent. Under the Clean Air Act, four conditions must be met for California to qualify for a waiver. First, its rules can't be arbitrary or capricious; fighting global warming hardly fits under that category. Second, its regulations must be stronger than federal ones. The energy bill's new fuel-economy standards, which require vehicle fleets to go from a current average of 25 miles per gallon to 35 mpg by 2020, aren't as tough as California's, which would require at least 36 mpg by 2016 (the EPA disputes this).