WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have stopped work on a proposal to further limit carbon dioxide emissions, the chairman of a key congressional committee charged Wednesday, stepping up a battle with the Bush administration over whether it has moved aggressively enough to combat global warming.
House and Senate committees have been investigating the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to deny California permission to implement its own regulations to limit vehicle emissions.
But Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) on Wednesday expanded that probe to look at the administration's response to the Supreme Court's decision last April that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, were subject to federal regulation.
"It appears that EPA's efforts to regulate CO2 emissions have been effectively halted," Waxman wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, "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."
Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said EPA staff members had told his committee they drafted a proposed regulation of about 300 pages that would achieve emission reductions equal to a fleet fuel-economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2018, stricter than the standards enacted last year of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
EPA staff assigned to draft regulations to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles have since "ceased their efforts" and have been "awaiting direction" since December, Waxman said.
That is when the EPA forwarded the proposed regulation to the Department of Transportation and sent to the White House its official finding that carbon dioxide must be regulated.
Waxman asked Johnson to explain the delay and provide copies of communications between his agency and the White House on the issue. "The senior EPA officials who spoke with the committee did not know what transpired inside the White House . . . or what directions the White House may have given you," Waxman wrote Johnson.
The EPA had no immediate response.
Johnson is set to appear today before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The chairman, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), has asked Johnson for documents on his agency's proposed regulation of emissions.
But Johnson has declined to provide them, saying that they are a draft and that their release "could have a detrimental impact on the agency's deliberative process in the development of any regulatory action."