California greening

April 30, 2007

Foes of Maryland's new "clean cars" law warned that copying California's rules on tailpipe emissions would put the Golden State in charge of Maryland's standards. Turns out it's not such a bad thing to have the Terminator fighting battles for you.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called out the federal Environmental Protection Agency last week for dragging its feet on granting a waiver that will allow his state, Maryland and 10 others to put into effect emission curbs that are stricter than the federal rules.

The governor warned EPA chief Stephen L. Johnson that the "clock is ticking" on a request first made in 2005. If the waiver doesn't come through within six months, California will sue the federal agency, he said.

Not the same, exactly, as roughing up a guy the way the former movie star might have done on screen, but it's a message that might get attention nonetheless.

Under President Bush, the EPA has been stubbornly reluctant to use its regulatory powers to enforce Clean Air Act requirements. A recent Supreme Court decision rejecting the agency's claim that it didn't have the authority to regulate greenhouse emissions, such as carbon dioxide, has barely dented that resistance.

Mr. Johnson stonewalled a Senate committee recently on what plans, if any, he had made to update the federal tailpipe standards to comply with the court ruling. He observed that the court had granted the agency a great deal of latitude.

He apparently intends to stall through the end of Mr. Bush's term, despite mounting evidence of the huge role greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide from car and truck emissions, play in global warming.

If it's the auto industry Mr. Johnson is trying to protect, the favor is limited. A federal standard that's consistent throughout the nation would be easier to comply with than a state-by-state patchwork.

Ultimately, though, it's the entire nation and even the world that's hurt by Mr. Johnson's refusal to help curb pollutants that pose such a threat to health and prosperity.

Either way, it will soon be Hasta la vista, baby for the Bush EPA. Meanwhile, Marylanders should be grateful to follow the lead of a Republican governor who declared last week, "The whole world should tell the federal government to wake up and do something about this."

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