Muckraker: Grist on Politics

We reported a few weeks ago that the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming had reached a deal with the White House to secure documents from the Environmental Protection Agency on its work in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Massachusetts v. EPA. We also reported that The Wall Street Journal had gotten ahold of an advance draft of the EPA’s regulatory proposals for automobile fuel efficiency resulting from the Massachusetts case, and reported that EPA staffers found that cars and trucks could be even more fuel-efficient by 2020 than the 35 miles per gallon required by the latest update to CAFE standards.

Today the Select Committee announced that they’d received the requested documents, which show that EPA staff experts have recommended tougher standards for auto emissions. They issued a statement today that says that the documents reveal that the EPA was on its way to setting landmark standards for emissions back in December. But they submitted their draft regulatory recommendations to the White House and to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and since then have been engaged in a lengthy process of negotiation.

The White House is in the process of completing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which is due out any day now. It’s suspected that their rulemaking will be much less stringent than the recommendations of EPA staff (as we’ve seen previously with the smog decision and the California waiver).

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Preempting the ANPR, Select Committee Chair Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter (PDF) to Bush today about the documents, urging his rulemaking decision to abide by the recommendations of EPA experts. Among the conclusions in the drafts that Markey highlights in the letter:

— EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson determined that man-made global warming is unequivocal, the evidence is both compelling and robust, and the administration must act to prevent harm rather than wait for harm to occur before acting.

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–EPA found that global warming risks include severe heat waves, sea level rise, reduced availability of water, increased wildfire and insect outbreaks, an increase in heavy precipitation events, an increase in regional ground-level ozone pollution, and changes in the range of vector-borne diseases.

–EPA proposed that regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles be implemented in order to achieve the equivalent of a 35 mpg car and light truck fleet average by 2018 (with the car fleet averaging 38.4 mpg by 2018 and the truck fleet averaging 29.5 mpg by 2017).

–When EPA used the EIA 2007 high gasoline price projections of $2.75 in 2017 to $3.20 in 2030 to calculate standards, it found that the car fleet could achieve a standard of 43.3 mpg by 2018 and light trucks could achieve a standard of 30.6 mpg by 2017.

“This administration has shown its contempt for Congress, its contempt for the rule of law, and this administration’s handling of the Massachusetts v. EPA decision has shown its contempt for science,” said Chairman Markey in a statement. “The president has a short amount of time to alter his legacy as running the most environmentally-unfriendly administration in history, and he can start by listening to his own climate scientists and take action on global warming.”