EPA Waivers and the Meaning of Extraordinary

By February 4, 2008Global Warming

The Washington Post essays a slap or two today at EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson for rejecting California’s request for a waiver to allow the state to regulate vehicle emissions for carbon dioxide.

It’s a dashed-off editorial, seems to us, of the lesser tier of opining that tends to appear in Monday newspapers. (We spread out our lesser efforts over the full week.) The Post contends California’s waiver is justified because the Administration has shown a lack of leadership in the face of “compelling and extraordinary conditions” — the legal standard California must meet to gain a waiver.

Even when a presentation to Mr. Johnson by the EPA’s career staff noted that “California continues to have compelling and extraordinary conditions” that “are vulnerable to climate change conditions” and that the agency was “likely to lose” a court challenge if the waiver was not granted, the 27-year EPA veteran ignored his staff’s counsel.

Nobody elected the career EPA staff, yet the fans of more government control over the economy continue to elevate its opinion to near-divine status. And as we’ve said before, Johnson did not ignore the staff recommendations, he considered and then rejected them after weighing competing policy considerations. That’s the way the way our republic works, thankfully.

To the extent man-made global warming exists in reality (independent from the policy agenda of statists, activists, regulators and opinion-makers), it is by definition, global. A single state’s conditions are simple not “extraordinary.” That’s not “at best, a legal technicality,” as the Post asserts, it’s a tenet of the law in question. Congress wrote it that way for specific reasons.

The Post also asserts: “The urgency to address climate change has been lost on the Bush administration.” Well, if it’s so urgent, what to make of the admission by California officials that there are no studies that show its regulatory regime will have any effect on global warming? It’s so urgent that we must aggressively spend billions to achieve nothing?

One final note: The Post calls Johnson “irascible.” Why? Because he disagrees with editorial page writers? Demonizers of Johnson like Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell must be pleased: Smear Johnson as corrupt or a religious zealot, and bit by bit, the mainstream media become comfortable in describing him in less extreme yet still damaging terms. It’s an ugly tactic, but one often rewarded here inside the Beltway.

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