Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Correct Me If I Am Wrong..

But I thought that one of the hallmarks of Republican ideology was to have less government regulation at the national level so that the states had more autonomy to legislate for themselves within the national system. What usually gets referred to as the state laboratories or experiments or something along those lines. Its actually not a bad idea some of the time.

Apparently, when it comes to serving their corporate backers, ideology and values are not so important to the Republic Party of the current administration. Today, at about 6:30 p.m. EST, the EPA, headed by Stephen L. Johnson, decided to not grant a waiver to California.

Had the waiver been granted, California, and possibly other states, would have been able to set higher standards to decrease the amount of emissions. In all, the proposed California law would have mandated a 30 percent cut in tailpipe emissions by 2016.

Now, first it might be helpful to explain what this "waiver" is all about. The waiver California was seeking has to do with the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act, first signed into law in 1970 and amended as recently as 1990, sets standards to combat air pollution in the United States. While states may not legislate levels below the standards set in the Clean Air Act, they may create laws which exceed the standards of the law. In order to do so, they must first obtain a waiver from the EPA.

Since the Clean Air Act became law, nearly four decades ago, there have been 40 applications for waivers. Until today, none of had been rejected.

It should also be noted that California was not the only state that was seeking a waiver, it was simply the first in line. Also stating that they would seek waivers from the EPA were Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Four more states, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah, were preparing to adopt the same of similar standards as those in the California proposal. Furthermore, Iowa is considering adopting them as well.

In all, those states represent apparently 70 percent of new car sales. Going by the figures for the population of the U.S., if all the states were to adopt these standards (which seems likely given that only Iowa is still at the consideration phase), then it would represent 157.5 million people, or 52.6% of the population. All of these legislatures are responsible to their constituents, in some ways more so than the EPA is through Congressional oversight and Presidential administration control.

So what was the rationale for the EPA's decision? As the AP noted, "In explaining his decision, Johnson cited energy legislation approved by Congress and signed into law Wednesday by President Bush. The law requires automakers to achieve an industrywide average fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs and small trucks of 35 miles per gallon by 2020."

Anyone else notice what they were doing there? Instead of admitting that they were breaking with precedent, the EPA was changing the subject. The laws being adopted by the states had to do with emissions. The new federal law deals with fuel efficiency. The two are not the same.

Whats the real reason? In my opinion, I think you need to look at who stands to gain from all this. Perhaps... the auto industry. GMC has gone on record stating that they are opposed to the California style regulations and that refusing the waiver would "[remove] the disproportionate burden of complying with a patchwork of state-specific regulations that would divert our resources, automakers can concentrate on developing and implementing the advanced technologies in ways that will meet America's driving needs."

Of course, GMC has been fighting California's stringent air quality standards in the courts. And recently, their attempts failed when the U.S. District Court last week.

Again in my opinion, if you look at what auto industry is saying, is that they do not want to change. They want to be to continue do business the same way. Yes, I have read the arguments that imposing change in industries is a bad thing. However, this time, I do not believe that the argument works. The law, at least the California version, did not mandate how the reduction in emissions were to occur. It was just that the emissions had to go down. The automakers would have a clear deadline to come up with whatever way would work for them... just as long as they met the deadlines.

Now, its not all the auto industries fault. They are doing what corporations are supposed: trying to maximize their profits for their investors. However, the actions of the EPA in this case seem to be at odd with what the current administration has been instructing them to do: namely find a ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

And here I thought that the goal was to find a way to protect the environment (and by extension our health) without submitting to Kyoto. And by letting the states do this, we see what works and what does not. And its something that every other administration has permitted applicant states to obtain for more than thirty years.

Oh well, I must have been wrong.

No comments: