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EPA ready to provide files

Congress looks into the rejection of California's bid to curb emissions.

December 28, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency signaled Thursday that it is prepared to comply with a congressional request for all documents -- including communications with the White House -- concerning its decision to block California from imposing limits on greenhouse gases.

In a memo, the EPA's general counsel directed agency employees to preserve and produce all documents related to the decision, including any opposing views and communications between senior EPA officials and the White House.

The documents should include "any records presenting options, recommendations, pros and cons, legal issues or risks, [or] political implications," said the memo from the general counsel, Roger Martella Jr.

The memo was written in response to the congressional inquiries, EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson last week rejected California's request to implement regulations on tailpipe emissions of greenhouses gases, principally carbon dioxide. As many as 16 states were free to do likewise if California received approval from the EPA.

The California rules essentially required automakers to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, because by burning less fuel, vehicles would emit less carbon dioxide. Johnson maintained that the new federal auto fuel economy requirement of 35 miles per gallon -- signed into law by President Bush only hours before Johnson made his announcement -- achieves what California wants to accomplish.

California officials disagree, saying the state requirements would be more stringent than what Congress approved as part of an energy bill.

Some EPA employees, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, have said EPA staffers clearly advised Johnson that a waiver rejection probably would not stand up in court. California has said it will challenge the decision in a lawsuit.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee -- which are led by California Democrats -- have demanded all internal EPA documents related to the decision and promised investigations and hearings.

"The two-page letter denying the waiver is unsupported by legal or technical analysis," Senate committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a letter demanding the documents. "On its face, this decision appears to be contrary to the Clean Air Act and the science."

House panel Chairman Henry A. Waxman of Beverly Hills) said last week that Johnson "appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act."

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