Washington Weather: Hot Air and Hyprocrisy
Any doubt that the Bush administration was committed to sound environmental policy and wasn't playing footsie with big business disappeared like exhaust into the atmosphere just before Christmas.
First came an energy bill signed by the president and hailed as some sort of breakthrough. In fact, it was nothing more than a half-measure, a long-overdue law that brought fuel-efficiency standards up to where they should have been 20 years ago.
Then, as the ink was drying on that bill, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency announced that California and 16 other states could no longer require stricter fuel-efficiency standards. These states had long ago grown tired of the federal government dragging its feet on vehicle fuel efficiency and had moved forward with their own plans.
You could mark this down as an attempt to achieve cleaner air in places that care about the environment, or you might mark it down as an example of states' rights.
Thus, it is a towering irony that we see the Bush White House telling states that they cannot implement their own policies. Yes, this administration is all about states' rights until it clashes with the wants of industry — in this case, the auto industry.
Most galling of all is the administrator's attitude. In making the announcement, Stephen Johnson said with a straight face that the decision was his, that it was not dictated or influenced by the White House.
That is enough to make your stomach hurt. This fix has been in for weeks and should not have been a surprise; disappointing, yes, but a surprise, no. Vice President Dick Cheney had met with auto executives who let him know their opposition. Auto lobbyists, including representatives of what is left of the Big Three and the Detroit auto industry, had descended upon the nation's capital like a plague. So that was that.
California has made some 50 requests to the EPA to implement tougher emission standards since 1970. The EPA has never refused — until now.
EPA insiders have told The New York Times that legal and technical staffs were never asked to analyze the plan and that no documentation was released to back up Johnson's decision, something that in the past had been a matter of routine.
No one should be fooled by the EPA or this administration. This isn't about the well-being of the American people, clean air or reducing greenhouse gases. This is about giving the auto industry what it wants, and that is a thoroughly disgusting thing.
For the sake of our environment, our rulers should be ashamed.
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