The business of
getting federal approval for states to enact certain laws
was tough enough. Now along come Detroit automakers and
Virginia's coal industry, who seem bent on making it even
California is struggling to get Washington's go-ahead
to enforce a state law for limiting greenhouse gas
emissions from cars in the Golden State.
If you believe California's governor, attorney general
and two U.S. senators, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency has deliberately dragged its feet. They say Bush's
EPA is loath to lay more regulatory burdens on the auto
industry, but also reluctant to publicly quash
California's groundbreaking plan to address global
Perhaps the EPA won't need to make any decision that
might damage the Bush administration image.
That's because the White House now has an unusual
political ally in Rep. John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat
who wants to protect a key constituent – the auto industry
– from new regulations at state and federal levels. And
then there's Rep. Rick Boucher, the Virginia Democrat who
has his state's coal industry to protect.
SNUFFING THE STANDARDS
Boucher and Dingell have placed in the House draft
alternative fuels bill a provision that would all but kill
Their language, down at the bottom of Section 102,
prohibits the EPA from giving California the waiver it
needs for its tougher regulations. Even if the EPA wanted
to. Which it probably doesn't, but that's beside the
In a letter
explaining his rationale to House colleagues, Dingell
argues that the EPA and states should not regulate
greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles because the U.S.
Energy Department already regulates mileage standards. He
says limiting emissions is merely a backdoor attempt to
In a letter to Boucher sent last Wednesday,
Schwarzenegger and the governors of seven other states
complained that the bill would deny states' rights to
adopt their own emissions standards.
“Our states are at the forefront of the effort to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our nation's
dependence on carbon-based fuels,” reads the letter, whose
signers claim to represent more than one-third of the
automobile market. “Not only does this bill deny our right
to adopt California's vehicle emissions standards, it
eliminates the EPA's regulatory authority over greenhouse
gases as a pollutant.”
PELOSI IN A BIND
The move by Boucher and Dingell doesn't sit well with
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who
sides with her state's effort to regulate greenhouse gas
emissions. But Dingell is reportedly waving a carrot
before the speaker, offering her a national victory in
signing up automakers to carbon controls across the
country if she will cave on California's quest to write
its own emissions regulations.
Dingell's proposed deal appears to reflect the auto
industry's recognition that it can no longer beat efforts
to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.
Democrats are seeking in a draft of the House energy bill
to increase CAFE standards to 36 miles per gallon for cars
by 2022 and to 30 miles per gallon for light trucks by
2025. The Senate version of the bill would raise fuel
economy standard for all cars, truck and SUVs by 10 miles
per gallon over 10 years – or from 25 to 35 miles per
gallon by model year 2020, and an additional 4 percent
increase annually until 2030.
Apparently, throwing tougher California greenhouse gas
emission regulations on top of that is too much for the
industry to swallow.
This is a tough one for Pelosi, who has made the fight
against global warming a priority, but who is also aiming
to pass a major energy reform bill by July 4.
The talks have been so contentious betweenDingell,
Boucher and Pelosi that a scheduled hearing on the energy
bill was canceled last week, with no date given for when
it might come up again.
Dana Wilkie is a
Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service and
a longtime observer of California politics and social