Brown Blasts EPA For Betraying Public Trust

Thursday, January 10, 2008
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

LOS ANGELES--California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today attacked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for betraying its “sacred mission” to protect the environment and called upon Congress to require the agency’s top staff to explain, under oath, their flawed and illegal decision-making process.

“Charged with protecting the environmental trust, the EPA has instead betrayed its sacred mission,” Attorney General Brown told members of the Senator Barbara Boxer’s Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works at a briefing in Los Angeles. “The agency’s top staff should explain, under oath, why they sabotaged the groundbreaking effort by California and fourteen other states to reduce dangerous greenhouse gases emitted by motor vehicles.”

Brown sued the EPA last week after the agency broke forty years of precedent by denying California’s request for a waiver, which would have allowed the state to cut tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016. It was the first denial since the Clean Air Act was established in 1967.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s rejection decision, outlined in a two-page letter, contained no supporting technical or legal analysis. Brown’s lawsuit charged the EPA with not following the criteria for reviewing waiver requests, as set forth in Clean Air Act section 209, and failing to provide any facts to support its decision.

The EPA stated that California failed to demonstrate “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” as required by the Clean Air Act. This not only contradicted forty years of agency practice but it also ignored the dangerous consequences of global warming to the State of California. California’s unique topography and its high human and vehicular population have already caused higher ozone concentrations than other parts of the country. Global warming also threatens California’s coastline, levees, and Sierra mountain snow pack which provides one-third of the state’s drinking water.

For decades, EPA has agreed that California needs its own emissions program to meet these “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” In a 1975 waiver determination, EPA said that the waiver process is meant to ensure “that the Federal government would not second-guess the wisdom of state policy” and “that no ‘Federal bureaucrat’ would be able to tell the people of California what auto emission standards were good for them, as long as they were stricter than Federal standards.”

Administrator Johnson incorrectly asserted that the federal energy bill, which raises gas mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, rendered California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards unnecessary. An analysis by the California Air Resources Board confirms that California’s emissions rules cut twice the level of greenhouse gases compared with federal program. The California program will also result in fuel efficiency—44 miles per gallon by 2020—that is far better than the federal standard.

14 other states, representing 44% of the nation’s population, have adopted California’s regulations: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Four other states, Utah, Colorado, Illinois and Delaware are in the process of adopting the standards.

The EPA was established in 1970 under President Nixon to set and enforce environmental protection standards, conduct research on pollution, and recommend policies to the President for the protection of the environment. In 2005, President Bush appointed Stephen Johnson as the agency’s 11th administrator.

Under Johnson, the EPA has also failed to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for aircraft and ocean-going vessels, both major worldwide contributors to global warming. The agency has also weakened the Toxic Release Inventory, a program which requires facilities to report annual quantities of toxic chemicals that are emitted, prompting Attorney General Brown to file a lawsuit in November 2007.

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