Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Carbon Dioxide Regulation: No Snap Decision

Carbon Dioxide Regulation: No Snap Decision by Anthony Fontanelle

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson repeatedly declined to say last Tuesday how soon he will comply with the high court’s decision and decide whether to regulate carbon dioxide -the principal gas which has been linked to global warming.

Johnson, appearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was asked repetitively to give a timetable for responding to the Supreme Court decisions promulgated on April 2. The court said that the Clean Air Act makes clear the agency must regulate carbon dioxide if it is found and proven that it endangers public health.

The legal argument has been established and "now there's an unmistakable green light to take action now," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee's chairman, told Johnson. "There is no excuse for delay." But Johnson called the court's ruling to be complex and said that he did not want to be tied to a specific timetable. "I'm not going to be forced into making a snap decision," he later told reporters.

When Boxer said EPA staff had indicated the agency could make a decision on regulating carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles in three or four months, Johnson responded he would "not commit to a specific four-month schedule." "We will move expeditiously, but we are going to be moving responsibly," said Johnson, a variation of a phrase he used again and again when pressed by senators on a timetable. "I don't hear in your voice a sense of urgency," Boxer told Johnson.

While the court's decision focused on vehicle tailpipe emissions, Johnson said that the agency is evaluating what impact the ruling might have on the need to regulate releases from power plants and industrial sources as well. The EPA administrator sought to deflect some of the criticism by telling senators the agency earlier Tuesday had taken another step toward considering whether to grant a waiver to California so that it could implement regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from tailpipes.

Johnson said he had signed documents earlier in the day to begin a formal public comment period - lasting until June 15 - on the waiver request and that he planned a hearing on the issue on May 22.

Separately, the decision on whether to radically increase the regulation of automobile emissions and auto safety returns to the forefront in Congress this week. On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will begin deliberation of a bill to radically raise corporate average fuel economy regulations, using a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. But with committee staffers still trying to arrive at consensus on bill language, auto industry and the Senate officials on Monday decided that debate on the fuel economy bill will be postponed until May 8.

Feinstein's bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by 16 senators, increases the fleet-wide average fuel economy for passenger cars and light trucks from 25 miles per gallon to 35 mpg by the year 2018. It is expected to entertain amendments at the May 8 hearing. The bill is likened to what President Bush called for in January, when he said he wanted to reduce gasoline usage by 8.5 billion gallons, or 5 percent, a year by raising fuel economy by an average of four percent each year beginning in September 2009 for passenger cars. The key difference is Bush would leave it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set the actual increases through a rulemaking process.

Feinstein's bill would necessitate additional auto safety regulations, by implementing compatibility standards between huge and small vehicles. It would also require "mandatory on-board fuel economy displays that show real-time fuel consumption to encourage more fuel efficient driving." It means refined auto parts like EBC rotors, engines, radiators and more

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