It's a shame that Roll Call operates behind a subscription wall, because Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who chairs the House's special committee on global warming, has a great op-ed there today summarizing where things stand moving forward from the energy bill negotiations, "Global Warming At the Starting Gate." One key highlight:
Seventeen states (representing over 46 percent of Americans) have adopted or will soon adopt global warming emissions standards for vehicles. The federal district court in Vermont recently held that federal law does not prohibit such measures. What remains to be seen this year is whether the Bush EPA will grant these states the waiver they need to enforce these tailpipe standards, or spurn their ambitious action.
In addition to loving Markey's framing of Congress' movement as a launching point for so much more, we cannot stress the point he makes above with any more emphasis. Given the trends in the courts (which Markey also notes) and the rising tide of action at all levels, the spotlight is now on the EPA regardless of what happens with the energy bill. Now that Congress has smartly resisted pressure to do anything that remotely borders on preemption, it's incumbent on the administration to follow suit.
Yesterday's veto threat on the energy bill doesn't exactly inspire confidence along those lines, as White House economic advisor Allan Hubbard's letter to Speaker Pelosi pretty much reiterates the industry's ideal outcome in its language regarding auto efficiency (emphasis ours):
Unfortunately, while assigning new requirements to the Department of Transportation, the proposed legislation leaves ambiguous EPA's role in CAFE regulations, and likely creates substantial amounts of regulatory uncertainty and confusion...Legislation should clarify that there should be consultation between the agencies, while clearly establishing a single fuel economy regulatory standard.
There is a remote theoretical possibility that Hubbard is asking for something less troubling than it would appear. And some reports indicate that this may partly be bluster to try and wring out more compromises or satisfy industry-based pressure (and possibly worse still, Cheney-based-pressure) on EPA's regulatory process.
Yet quite frankly, no one should give the benefit of the doubt to an administration that, even as momentum has shifted against its long-standing arguments, has delayed and blustered at best while (rather pathetically) plotting intransigence at worst. The proposed energy bill, thankfully, gives EPA no excuses to shirk its responsibilities, either to California or to its own post-Mass v. EPA deliberations on greenhouse gas emissions. That shouldn't give it license to instead come up with twisted logic of its own.
The ball is EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's court, with rumors abounding that he'll be announcing GHG regulations in the coming weeks (hoping to give the administration something to brag about in international climate negotiations) and a vow that he'll rule on California's waiver by year's end. Let's hope he doesn't drop it.