U.S. Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works
Opening Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman
Hearing on “Examining The Case For The California Waiver”
May 22, 2007
Remarks as prepared for delivery
I am very pleased to welcome all the witnesses here today, including the Attorney General of California, Jerry Brown. I also welcome the Commissioner for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Pete Grannis, and Professor Jonathan Adler.
Today we will discuss California’s important efforts to reduce global warming pollution from vehicles. We will hear about the EPA’s crucial upcoming decision regarding whether to grant California a “waiver” that will authorize the State to proceed with this effort.
On April 2, 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and that EPA already has all the authority it needs to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles now.
The Supreme Court’s landmark decision has now cleared the way. The time to act is now.
The clearest example of this point is the case for the California waiver.
In 2002, recognizing the threat posed by global warming, my home state of California passed a law to set aggressive greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.
In 2005, California wrote rules to implement that law. These standards would cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% by 2016.
As provided for under Clean Air Act section 209(b), California asked EPA for a waiver approving the standards.
11 other states, which together with California represent approximately 1/3 of the U.S. vehicle fleet, have adopted the California standards.
Since the transportation sector causes about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions nationally, and about 40% of the emissions in California, a 30% reduction in vehicle greenhouse gas emissions would be a very significant step towards reducing global warming pollution.
In light of the Supreme Court decision, EPA should approve the California waiver shortly after the close of the public comment period, which ends on June 15, 2007. The application for a waiver clearly meets the legal standards for approval, and should be granted.
This is one of the first steps the President and EPA could take to demonstrate a real commitment to reducing global warming pollution—to immediately grant California’s request for a waiver so the state can regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles. California’s plan has been ready for almost two years, and eleven other states are waiting for California’s waiver so they can follow our lead.
I have asked EPA Administrator Johnson to return before the Committee at that time to tell me his plans. We are now planning to have him appear before this Committee on June 21.
In his previous appearance before this Committee, Administrator Johnson repeatedly said that these issues are “complex” and need much further study.
In fact, that is not the case.
According to the Washington Post, EPA has granted California a waiver 40 times in the past thirty years.
EPA has never denied a California request to set its own standards under this provision of the law.
I take the use of the word “complex” by Administrator Johnson as a code word for inaction and delay.
Last week, the Bush Administration issued an Executive Order which called for interagency consultation regarding any decision that will directly affect greenhouse gas emissions.
While I appreciate the President’s indications that he wants to reduce global warming pollution, his statements in issuing the Executive Order shed little light on how he would make that happen.
Further delay in this matter is simply unacceptable. The time has come for decisive action by EPA.
That is why the Attorney General of California is here today.
Earlier today, he testified before EPA about why California’s waiver request deserves quick approval after EPA held it up for 16 months.
The State has filed a notice of intent to sue EPA in six months if the agency has not acted on the waiver request.
That lawsuit will force EPA to act according to the law and the Supreme Court opinion.
That will mean, after years of unjustified delay and inaction, we can finally get on the road to combating global warming emissions from cars.
That will mean that the leadership shown by California in passing the California law and filing its waiver request will finally bear fruit.
That will mean that we can begin the much needed process of protecting the future of our children and our grandchildren from the pervasive threat posed by global warming.
I applaud the Attorney General’s leadership in this critical area. I also welcome the initiative taken by states like New York, which have adopted the California greenhouse gas standards rather than wait for the federal government to take action.
Once again, I want to welcome all the witnesses and I look forward to hearing their testimony.
# # #