Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a waiver of Clean Air Act Preemption for California’s greenhouse gas emission standards. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson signed the 48-page Federal Register Notice claiming that California does not have “compelling and extraordinary conditions” justified to set stricter standards than federal law allows under The Clean Air Act.
To no surprise, the decision is already facing much criticism and has California lawmakers and environmentalists across the country outraged. An editorial in yesterday’s New York Times claims that the denial is a “serious blow” to those worried about climate change. Though they claim Johnson acknowledged that “climate change gravely endangered not only California but the entire country”, this is hardly the case.
The editorial depicts a false sense of acknowledgment from the denial and administrator Johnson. At the beginning of the Federal Register Notice, Johnson asserts that:
“This document does not reflect, and nothing in this document should be construed as reflecting, my judgment regarding whether emissions of GHGs from new motor vehicles or engines cause or contribute to air pollution “which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare,” which is a separate question involving different statutory provisions and criteria; nor should it be construed as reflecting my judgment regarding any issue relevant to the determination of this question.”
Clear and compelling evidence is necessary for EPA to grant a waiver; without a standard of proof, states could implement costly climate change legislation that may have only marginal benefits. The EPA was correct in denying California a waiver and should be recognized for not announcing any new regulations on carbon dioxide. There is no justifiable reason to take immediate action and the EPA should avoid regulating carbon dioxide emissions until more conclusive evidence is found.