Wednesday, September 10, 2008

House Select Committee battles for global warming documents

The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has sought documents related to the Department of Transportation’s assertion that California’s rights to issue regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles using Clean Air Act authority are preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.  Chairman Ed Markey again asked in August for drafts of the  proposed fuel economy rules and the names of individuals involved in the decision to assert that California motor vehicle standards are preempted by the EPCA.

The Select Committee has been investigating the political influence on the EPA's scientific decisions regarding EPA’s national vehicle emissions regulations.  Markey has indicated that those decisions "were twisted by political forces from deep within the White House," arguing "It’s imperative that we now discover if there were similar machinations within the Department of Transportation trying to shoot down California’s right to reduce global warming pollution from vehicles."

According to the committee, Chairman Markey asked in June for documents and information pertaining to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on fuel economy standards. The NPRM was responding to the energy bill passed in December that raised fuel economy standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Chairman Markey asked about the gas price estimates used for creating fuel economy targets, and whether those estimates were high enough to reflect the current and future prices of gas, given the estimates used in the NPRM were below $3 per gallon.

Chairman Markey also asked for information pertaining to California’s rights to proceed with its clean car regulations. The NPRM contained the administration’s view that state regulations to reduce heat-trapping pollution from motor vehicles were preempted by national policy. In subsequent exchanges, when asked for more information on how this decision was reached, and by whom, NHTSA responded that they would not provide any of the documents to the Select Committee because the documents were "pre-decisional." In today's response letter, Chairman Markey notes: "I am not aware of any court that has recognized ‘pre-decisional’ as an adequate basis to withhold documents from a valid Congressional request." The letter further stated that if the agency is relying on a claim of executive privilege to withhold the documents, then that claim should be formally asserted.

Along with a request for the documents themselves, in all forms, Chairman Markey also asks whether any White House or other executive branch officials assisted in drafting NHTSA’s NPRM, and lists of any names, dates of any meetings, conversations, correspondence or any other interactions between NHTSA and other administration officials.

The letters can be found on the Select Committee website and below:

Chairman Markey’s letter calling on NHTSA to stop stonewalling on its views on the California regulations (8.7.08):

Response from NHITSA General Council (7.28.08):

Response from Department of Transportation General Counsel (7.28.08):

Chairman Markey’s original request for information (6.17.08):

Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management | Permalink

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