Monday, January 14, 2008

Waxman Presses EPA On Releasing CA Waiver Documents

Jan 14: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is continuing to pressure EPA to release documents relating to the Agency's denial of the waiver request from the State of California to implement its landmark tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards. Waxman announced his investigation into the decision on December 20, the day after EPA denied California request [See WIMS 1/2/08]. Other investigations are also underway from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies [See WIMS 1/4/08], and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee [See WIMS 1/11/08].

Waxman's January 14, letter follows a January 11, letter from U.S. EPA's Associate Administrator Christopher Bliley. In his letter, Bliley tells Waxman that the Agency will not be able to meet the January 10, deadline that Waxman set, but that the Agency "respects your very strong interest in this issue and is committed to providing the Committee information necessary to satisfy its oversight interests to the extent possible and consistent with our Constitutional and statutory obligations." Bliley says that EPA may be able to complete its search for documents by January 18.

In his January 14th reply, Waxman says, "I appreciate the efforts EPA is taking to collect responsive documents, but I am concerned about the failure of the agency to meet the Committee's January 10 deadline. I am also concerned that no schedules for document production are proposed in your letters. In an effort to accommodate the agency without unduly delaying the Committee's investigation, I ask that your staff work with Committee staff to establish by the close of business on January 16 mutually agreeable deadlines for producing documents to the Committee. The Committee will also be conducting transcribed interviews or depositions of agency staff who may have knowledge of the agency's deliberations. As a first step in this process, I request that a schedule be established by the close of business on January 16 for the interview or deposition of the following officials..." Waxman requests depositions from seven top-ranking EPA officials.

In a related matter, Senator Boxer last week expressed her outrage at a field briefing in Los Angeles regarding U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson for not showing up at the briefing to explain why he refused California's request and for not making other EPA staff available. Boxer said, "The Administrator’s continuing refusal to cooperate with the Committee’s oversight of the EPA is absolutely unacceptable. What started off as foot-dragging is looking suspiciously like a cover-up. What is Stephen Johnson trying to hide?" [See WIMS 1/11/08]

Access the Committee website page for this matter with links to a various letters (
click here). Access Senator Boxer's California field hearing website and links to all testimony and statements (click here). Access a release from Senator Dianne Feinstein calling for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of U.S. EPA to immediately open an investigation into the decision (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]