Senate hearing probes EPA chief’s delay on tailpipe decision

Can U.S. states enact stricter tailpipe regulations than the feds? That question has been hovering in the air since California requested a waiver from the U.S. EPA in late 2005. Why no answer yet? At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing yesterday, EPA head Stephen Johnson said the delay is due to a “rigorous analysis” of 60,000 public comments. But committee chair Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said some 53,000 of the comments were a mass mailing supporting the waiver, and Johnson’s position is weak. “When history is written, I think they’ll look back on your tenure as a missed opportunity,” she said. “And that’s the nicest way I could put it.” Oh, snap! Boxer has introduced legislation to force a decision by Sept. 30, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has threatened to sue if no decision comes by mid-October. Johnson, whose next move is eagerly awaited by 12 other states ready to follow California’s lead, has said he’ll lay down the law by the end of the year.