EPA Stalls on Greenhouse Gas Rules; Groups Say "Time's Up"

by kespeland on April 3, 2008

One year ago Wednesday, the several states, cities, and environmental groups that sued the EPA to force it to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles (Kentucky was not a plaintiff.) heard from the US Supreme Court that they’d won. The Court ordered the EPA to decide whether to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, once it came to a conclusion about the health risks those gases pose. EPA has already gone on the record about those risks. (Read EPA’s 4/2/07 opinion here: Supreme Court’s Decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, April 2, 2007)

But a year later, it hasn’t done squat. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson has said he needed more time to gather input from the public about climate change and greenhouse gases. So the parties have sued the EPA again, and they’re asking the court to force the EPA to act within 60 days.

If you or I were ordered to act by the US Supreme Court, I think we’d be hustling. Of course, that’s not the way it works in politics.

But still–a year later, and not a single action? Could there be some pressure from higher powers not to act? I’d be willing to bet money on it. The court ruling could force the EPA to raise fuel efficiency standards, tumping over the current standard. And some automakers wouldn’t like that.

Consider this: according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ K Street Lobbying Database (on its www.openscrets.org site), the automotive and oil and gas industries spent more than $140 million in 2007 alone lobbying the federal government. For example, General Motors spent about $8 million on lobbying in 2006. In 2007, the company spent nearly double. And 2007 is when we were hearing lots of talk about motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards. I’m not drawing any conclusions, but these are the facts.

Another fact to consider: at the end of January this year, D Magazine based in Dallas, Texas reported on a closed-door session GM vice chairman Bob Lutz held with journalists. During that session, he declared: “Global warming is a ‘total crock of ****.’ Then he added: “I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter.” (On his blog, FastLane, Lutz explained that his opinion on global warming didn’t matter because the decisions he makes at GM are about what’s best for the company, and that includes developing a battery-powered car.)

According to the Associated Press, “the plaintiffs in Wednesday’s court action include [Massachusetts Attorney General Martha] Coakley and attorneys general from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, plus the city of New York, and the mayor and city council of Baltimore.” Other petitioners include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biodiversity.

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