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  Taking The Hill
Posted 3/11/2008
By Caroline Holland

Senator Calls for Inquiry of California Waiver Denial by EPA

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate appropriations panel that funds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is urging the agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's decision to deny California's Clean Car Act waiver. The granting of the waiver would have allowed California to issue more stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for automobiles. In a letter to EPA Deputy Inspector Bill Roderick Jan. 2, 2008, the senator demanded an immediate launch of an investigation, stating the OIG is uniquely qualified to perform an objective and thorough analysis.

The letter specifically requested the inspector general to outline the typical process for addressing waiver requests. The letter also poses 14 other questions, including whether the EPA administrator violated agency decision-making protocols or laws and whether Johnson or other deputies discussed the waiver with the automotive industry and White House officials before issuing the denial. Upon receipt of the request, the OIG is in the position to accept or reject the request for the inquiry.

This request for an inquiry came prior to a California hearing Jan. 10 before the Senate Environment Committee chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Johnson denied a request from Boxer to testify. Some believed an OIG investigation could put more pressure on Johnson to defend his position. An Environmental and Public Works Committee Hearing was held Jan. 24 in which Johnson served as a witness.

ASA supports clean car programs and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, many programs include provisions that call for a 15-year, 150,000-mile expanded warranty provision included in the regulation for some vehicles. With these "super warranties" included in the final rule, independent shops will be virtually excluded from a significant number of repairs. Therefore, ASA asks that state legislators eliminate this portion of a clean car program when moving forward with current and future state programs.

New Jersey 'Right to Repair' Bill Dead

The year ended with another state failing to move forward with "right to repair" legislation. The 2007 New Jersey Assembly session ended Jan. 7, 2008, with no further action taken on Assembly Bill 931. New Jersey joins Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and Oklahoma as states that did not move forward with this legislation in 2007.

DOT Establishes Climate Change Office

Under the new energy bill, an Office of Climate Change and the Environment was formed under the Department of Transportation. The new office plans to begin with a study of policy options aimed to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the transportation industry. It could encourage major policy changes for the sector, such as the use of some highway dollars to expand public transportation. Others believe the office will take on smaller projects such as traffic management technologies that will reduce the time and fuel spent in congestion.

In addition to creating the Climate Change office, the law calls for major emissions reductions from automobiles and fuels by setting new corporate average fuel economy requirements and increasing the new renewable fuel mandate.

The letter written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to the EPA deputy inspector general is available on the Automotive Service Association's legislative Web site, The link can be found in the Press Center under "References and Bills."


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