In order to justify denying a waiver on greenhouse gases, the EPA would have to make a far broader finding that the Golden State no longer needs any independent air-pollution control program under the Clean Air Act, he says. "It would not be just limited to one rule."
The EPA, however, says global greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are different from local pollutants. California's request was "distinct from all prior requests," the agency said in a press release. "Greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature, which is unlike the other air pollutants covered by prior California waiver requests."
The US Supreme Court in April found that the EPA did have authority to regulate carbon dioxide. President Bush in May issued an executive order for the EPA to begin working on a new rulemaking process to reduce carbon from auto emissions – and to work closely with the Department of Transportation and other agencies.
But some sources suspect that a key factor in the EPA's new position is the Bush administration's concern – echoed by industry groups – that granting California a waiver to regulate auto emissions could quickly lead to greenhouse-gas regulations for other industries.
Wednesday's decision appears opposite to the EPA's apparent position in an internal White House debate last week, reported by the Monitor last week. In that discussion, Johnson of the EPA told White House officials unequivocally that his agency intended to issue a forceful "endangerment finding" for carbon-dioxide emissions, a prerequisite for a finding that CO2 is a pollutant, according to one source familiar with the discussion, who asked not to be named because he was not permitted to speak to the press.
Once CO2 was so designated, the EPA would be empowered to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions across a range of industries, not just cars.
"It looks as though the strict constructionists won out," according to this source. "They're worried that regulating CO2 will spill over from cars into the rest of the economy."