World Warms, EPA Chills

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 15 2008 3:22 PM

World Warms, EPA Chills

When the Supreme Court decided the global-warming case last year—rejecting the Bush administration's claim that it had no legal power to issue rules regulating greenhouse gases to combat climate change—it seemed to be a landmark ruling . And in some ways, it was. But it has now turned into a case study of how an agency committerd to doing nothing can fend off the courts and the public. Ever since the court’s decision, the EPA has been engaged in a pitched battle not only to refrain from exercising the authority the court has conclusively held it has, but also to refrain from explaining why it's not exercising it. And so far, the administration has been pretty successful. Of course, the state of California did seem to force the agency’s hand when it asked the EPA to waive a federal law that otherwise would have prevented that state's own greenhouse gas rules from going into effect. If the feds weren’t going to act, the states seemed to be saying, they would!   Although it appears the administrator's legal staff strongly favored granting the state waiver request, the EPA denied it on Dec. 19 of last year, touching off a mini-firestorm regarding agency politicization and teeing up the state’s court challenge of the waiver denial    Turns out, though, that the EPA’s delaying tactics know no bounds.   Now that the state of California is trying to challenge the agency’s action in court, the agency is arguing that it did not actually reject the waiver request on Dec. 19. It merely corresponded with the governor of California as a courtesy . But given the statement  the Governator issued that same day, it sure sounded to him a lot more like a formal denial than a friendly letter. 

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