Did CARB and EPA break the law?
House investigative committee expands EPA fuel mileage probe to CARB

By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

Congress’ main investigative committee wants to know what agreements were made and whether laws were broken when the California Air Resources Board secretly negotiated a “historic agreement” with the EPA and automakers in 2009.

The House of Representatives Oversight Committee also wants to know how and why CARB reportedly had a gun to the head of automakers, and why CARB Chairman Mary Nichols told The New York Times that during the negotiations between the White House and California, “we put nothing in writing, ever.”

In a strongly worded letter to CARB sent in mid-November, 2011 Darrell Issa, R-CA, questioned why a waiver granted by EPA to California was used as a threat during negotiations between California, EPA and automakers.

The letter is the most recent chapter in the committee’s investigation into the EPA’s greenhouse gas/fuel economy regulations, which are blamed for dramatic price increases for new trucks.

Issa chairs the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is investigating the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy standards for both light-duty cars and trucks and big rigs.

In May 2009, a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden announced the first greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks.

California had spent nearly 10 years and even fought automakers to the Supreme Court to enforce the standards.

The standards were reached after an agreement between EPA, labor unions, California and automakers. Until then, automakers had sued against such standards, arguing that a single state requirement would create a patchwork of standards nationally.

In a 2009 New York Times article, Nichols said she agreed with “climate czar” Carol Browner from the White House to keep discussions on greenhouse gas emissions negotiations quiet.

“We put nothing in writing, ever,” Nichols said, according to the newspaper. “That was one of the ways we made sure that everyone’s ability to talk freely was protected.”

Congress may never know how California obtained concessions from EPA and automakers, Issa wrote, but the committee’s concern means it is now eyeing CARB.

CARB says it will respond to Issa’s letter.

“Chairman Nichols welcomes the opportunity to respond to the letter,” CARB Spokesman Stanley Young told Land Line Magazine. “We do want to make it clear that, as for the claim of ‘apparent’ violation of federal law, we have federal court decisions in Vermont and California that definitively indicate that ARB’s vehicle standards are not fuel economy standards.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said no state regulatory body should be allowed to set federal policy.

“Given the level of incompetence coupled with blatant arrogance exhibited by CARB in California on truck emissions, to think they could be calling the shots nationally is a disaster with far-reaching consequences almost too terrifying to comprehend,” Spencer said.

California’s actions in setting fuel economy standards may have violated federal law, Issa said, which delegates fuel mileage authority to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

CARB’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions involve fuel economy regulation, Issa wrote. CARB touted the “cost-effective” nature that CARB’s greenhouse gas rules create for vehicle owners.

“In summary, it appears that CARB and the state of California are in the business of regulating fuel economy standards, in direct contravention of the law,” Issa wrote.

Issa’s letter concludes with 18 questions about negotiations between CARB, EPA and the White House.

The committee wants to know what technical research CARB provided EPA, and whether group meetings between the agencies were avoided in favor of tightly controlled meetings.

“Do you believe that a closed and secretive process is the best approach for regulating an industry that affects nearly every American?” one question reads. “If no, explain in detail why CARB agreed to participate in such a process.” LL