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11-08-07 Politico-Senate Tries to Cap Emissions EPA Won't By

11-08-07 Politico-Senate Tries to Cap Emissions EPA Won't By

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Published by: Mark Welkie on Mar 13, 2011
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Nov 8, 2007 06:20 PM EST By: Ryan Grim

Senate tries to cap emissions EPA won't
Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is the House’s assistant principal. If you’re called down to his hearing room, more likely than not, you’re in for it. Thursday’s unfortunate delinquent is Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. His misdeed, as far as Waxman is concerned: failing to exercise his executive branch obligation to regulate carbon emissions as pollutants. Across campus, the Senate is addressing climate change in a different way, by working to pass legislation that would create a legal obligation for the executive branch to regulate carbon emissions.
Henry Waxman isn’t quite so convinced of the EPA’s independence

The dueling approaches are the result of political calculations and a recent Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts v. EPA, which requires the federal agency to treat carbon as an air pollutant. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (RVa.), would cap carbon emissions and create a market where industry can trade emission permits. Why is the Senate trying to cap emissions if the EPA can already do it? In short, because the EPA doesn’t want to, which is why Johnson has been sent to the office. Johnson has a tight line to walk: He has to show that he’s in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling while not committing to doing too much. “I have to abide by the law as it’s written today,” Johnson says. He also thinks that “we must continue to improve our knowledge of the science,” but promises that the EPA is “developing regulations to pursue it from a regulatory standpoint” using a “deliberative and thoughtful process.” Democrats aren’t buying. “No, you’re not,” Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) tells him flatly. “You’re looking for any avenue you can to avoid doing it.” Several Democrats bring up the EPA’s long-running refusal to approve a waiver for California to enact its own carbon regulation scheme. There seems to be just as much faith on the Senate side that Johnson’s serious about action. “The executive branch has its position,” says Warner, “and I think it’s important that the legislative branch fulfill its responsibilities.” Johnson’s call for patience on confronting climate change is echoed by several GOP senators. “We need to have an administration analysis of the costs and benefits of the bill,” says Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking minority member.


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“The pace of committee action is unprecedented,” complained Sen. George Voinovich (ROhio), citing a violation of “the standards of courtesy by which this body traditionally operates.” “So I’m asking that you slow it down,” he says directly to Chairman Barbara Boxer (DCalif.). If Voinovich thinks Senate Democrats are being rude in pressing forward with the Lieberman-Warner bill, he’d probably find Waxman’s behavior downright criminal. “It’s as if the Supreme Court never ruled and EPA never heard of global warming,” Waxman says. “For most of [Johnson’s] tenure, he has been able to avoid climate change issues by saying that EPA lacks legal authority to regulate CO2 emissions. This changed in April when the Supreme Court ruled that Administrator Johnson does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.” Lieberman says there should be no wonder why Johnson has yet to regulate CO2 emissions. “This is not some environmental group. This is the EPA of the Bush administration,” he says. Back on the House side, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) is piling on. “Many people who have talked to me have renamed your agency the Environmental Pollution Agency,” he says. Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) comes to Johnson’s defense. “Congress is reprimanding you for not enforcing rules and regulations that I don’t think we’ve given you necessarily the power to do,” he says. “What we can’t pass in law we want you to kind of deal with administratively.” Shays concedes, though, that Johnson’s boss deserves some of the blame. “I think people can throw stones at you and get away with it because, frankly, the administration hasn’t been the champion of dealing with global warming.” For Voinovich, the EPA, rather than the villain here, should be guiding the Senate. “At the very least, members should be provided with an economic analysis — undertaken by an independent agency, like the Energy Information Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency — before moving forward,” he says, emphasizing "independent" both in his written statement and as he reads it. Waxman isn’t quite so convinced of the agency’s independence. He quizzes Johnson about his knowledge of an administrative lobbying effort involving the Department of Transportation to battle a California attempt to regulate greenhouse gases on its own. “Did you know, at the time you called [the Department of Transportation secretary], that she was engaged in a lobbying effort against the California waiver?” Waxman asked. “I did not know,” Johnson said, as Waxman’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “You did not?” “To the best of my recollection, I did not know,” he qualifies. “I’m glad you threw in ‘to the best of my recollection,’” Waxman says, before asking, “Were you briefed by your lawyer how to say things so you wouldn’t be committing perjury?” Rep. Dianne E. Watson, a California Democrat who grills him on his position on California’s plan, also reminds Johnson that he’s under oath. The EPA chief assures her that he’ll make a decision whether to allow California to regulate carbon emissions by the end of the year. While the Senate deliberates it own plan, Watson tells Johnson that California has another. “We’ll settle it in court,” she says.

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