Huffing, Puffing and Overheating in Los Angeles

By January 10, 2008Global Warming

Senator Barbara Boxer has organized a “field briefing” of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today in Los Angeles to beat up on the EPA for rejecting California’s request for a waiver so the state can regulate vehicle emissions for greenhouse gases. A briefing, as opposed to a hearing, means a partisan affair with only a pretense, if that, of balance. Given the political star power, the event’s intent is obviously to make headlines and hit the evening news.

Here is the speaker’s list:

-Edmund G. Brown Jr., Attorney General of California
-Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board
-Fran Pavley, Natural Resources Defense Council, Senior Climate Advisor (original author of California’s Pavley Clean Car Act)
-Carl Pope, Sierra Club, Executive Director
**Update: Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA) and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, will also make statements**

We’re guessing that much of today’s barking and whinnying will be attacks against EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson for denying the waiver. Johnson declined — in Boxer’s terminology, “refused” — to attend the briefing, which is a standard, acceptable response to these sorts of set-ups. No one expects cabinet officials to travel across the country to be bullied at an it’s-not-even-a-hearing.

Senator Boxer also has made much of the EPA not providing all the documents about the waiver decision she requested in a December 20, 2007, letter. Another part of the set-up: Issue a demand that would require scores of employees to expend hundreds of hours searching for documents over the Christmas holiday. And insist that the documents be ready by January 7. Ridiculous on its face.

The EPA responded politely with a letter Friday from Associate Administrator Christopher Bliley (quoted in the Baltimore Sun’s very good political blog, The Swamp):

Please be assured that EPA respects your very strong interest in this issue and is committed to providing the committee to the extent possible information necessary to satisfy its oversight interests consistent with our Constitutional and statutory obligations. Your request is a top priority for this agency and we are working hard to respond as quickly as possible.

Boxer’s response:

Who [sic] does the Administrator think he and the EPA work for? The EPA Administrator needs to be reminded that he works for the American people. The Bush EPA can run, but they can’t hide. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold the Bush EPA accountable for this outrageous, unprecedented decision.

“The Bush EPA can run, but they can’t hide.” Eeesh.

Today’s PR festival is a clearly political event, designed not as an information-gathering exchange on important policy matters, but instead to make headlines, score points with the environmental left, and build a pseudo-record for the next 10 months of pre-election hearings and “investigations” into Administration “obstruction.”

Subtle, it’s not.

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