Thursday, January 3, 2008

Catch-22 "EPA" and the "Clean Air Act" by Norman Markowitz

The problem with the Bush administration is that they do so many outrageous things in so many areas, often at the same time, that it is hard to keep up. And their explanations for what they are doing are so crudely false that it becomes difficult to make a serious response.

The "Environmental Protection Agency" (I am putting EPA in quotes because under Bush they have been as interested in protecting the environment as Al Capone was in the 1920s in enforcing the Prohibition laws) recently refused to give the state of California the necessary permission under the Clean Air Act to institute a state program to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks.

The California program, according to press reports based on figures from California's Air Resources Board, would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 2016 by twice present federal standards and its cumulative effects, between 2009 and 2016 would reduce emissions by 58 million metric tons, three times the present federal standard. California has launched a suit with a 15 other states other states, including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group, to challenge the EPA.

What is so remarkable is not only the EPA's decision on behalf of automakers and against the interests of all breathing citizens, but the arguments that they have made to support their position. First they have argued in their ruling that California is not uniquely affected by global warming so it does not have "compelling and extraordinary" reasons to regulate greenhouse gases.

Get this. An administration which has done everything it could to deny the existence of global warming as a planetary problem, including intimidating scientists who work for the federal government, now contends California cannot regulate greenhouse gasses because the problem is much greater than California.

Also, an administration which has, when it has suited it, raised the banner of states rights, has the effrontery or Catch-22 Chutzpah to state in its decision against California "we now have a more beneficial approach to a national problem which establishes an aggressive standard for all fifty states, as opposed to a lower standard in California and a patch work for other states." California Attorney General Jerry Brown (who as Governor in the 1970s, replacing Ronald Reagan, was targeted by right-wing Republicans and mocked as "governor moonbeam") called the statement "completely untrue" which was very charitable, since the standard California is trying to enact(which the EPA is attempting to block) is two to three times higher than the so-called federal "standard" which isn't so "aggressive," or else it is doubtful that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers would not have issued a statement essentially defending the EPA position as against California.

So, if the EPA prevails, California will not be allowed to reduce its emissions by two to three times more than the federal "higher" standard, and states which seek to respond to their specific environmental needs by going beyond that"standard" will not be permeated to, whatever rhetoric the administration may use in defense of "states rights" and against big government.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action adventure movie actor governor known for driving around in a Hummer, called the EPA decision "unconscionable," but with this administration, what isn't unconscionable.

For all citizens this recent EPA outrage should be one more reason to build the broadest united front possible to defeat the Republican right in 2008 at all levels, or else, if Bush EPA policies prevail, voters may have to go to the 2016 elections (the end year that the California rules were calculated on) wearing gas masks.

Norman Markowitz

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