Tag Archives: executive privilege

EPA Avoidance Update

Just to update on the EPA’s denial of a waiver to California to regulate its own greenhouse gas emissions – the White House is now refusing thousands of documents on the matter to Henry Waxman’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee, citing executive privilege.

“I don’t think we’ve had a situation like this since Richard Nixon was president,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is conducting the investigation.

An EPA official, Jason Burnett, has told committee investigators that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson had favored granting the waiver but denied it after meeting with White House officials. In testimony last month, Johnson refused to say whether he’d discussed the waiver request with Bush.

The White House waited until the very day that the Oversight Committee was going to rule on contempt citations for failing to respond on this issue.  And the OMB and the EPA basically answered by saying “we’ve given you enough documents, no more documents for you.”

It’s clear that the EPA and the Bush Administration will stonewall until the day they leave office on this front, and so it’s up to the next President to make a determination on the waiver.  And all you need to know about California’s chances of being able to regulate emissions is that Obama supports the waiver, and McCain has been vague and evasive about it (not to mention he’s taken more money from oil companies than any other Presidential candidate).

Meanwhile, California is offering another regulatory solution: they’re adding a Global Warming score to the sticker of every car for sale in the state.

The California Air Resources Board said Thursday the window sticker will give consumers the information they need to choose a cleaner-burning car or light truck.

“This label will arm consumers with the information they need to choose a vehicle that saves gas, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps fight smog all at once,” board chairman Mary Nichols said in a statement. “Consumer choice is an especially powerful tool in our fight against climate change. We look forward to seeing these stickers on 2009 model cars as they start hitting the showrooms in the coming months.”

We’ll see if this affects consumer choice in the coming months, although the fuel economy portion of the sticker is already driving demand.  To say nothing of those 5 hydrogen fuel cell cars turning up on Southern California roads.

Executive Privilege Is The New Black

The EPA has decided that you plebes don’t need to know about what they do.

Late on Friday, the EPA delivered a box of hard-copy documents about the California waiver denial from to Senator Barbara Boxer, theoretically meeting her past-deadline demand for disclosure in advance of Thursday’s Senate hearing. The catch, as per the Associated Press— many documents were either missing or contained numerous redactions. In a letter from Deputy Administrator Christopher Bliley, EPA invoked executive privilege regarding executive deliberations and attorney-client communications, claiming above all that a failure to restrict public release of the documents would have a “chilling effect” on agency decisions […]

Boxer had threatened to subpoena the agency if it did not turn over the waiver documents. She said she would continue her quest for all the information. Boxer aides said the agency’s offer to show her the redacted information privately was not satisfactory.

Apparently 16 pages of a 43-page Power Point presentation were completely blank except for the titles – one of which said “EPA likely to lose suit.”

Sen. Boxer is extremely angry about this dodging of federal oversight, calling it “an insult to the American people and a dereliction of duty.”  There’s a hearing about the EPA waiver denial in the Senate Environment Committee scheduled for Thursday, and the Chief Administrator Stephen Johnson will be there.  Insofar as Senate committee hearings are must-see TV, this will be one of them.

Arnold Trying To Cover Up His Complicity In The Prison Crisis

This could get very interesting.  The federal judge charged with ruling on the California prison crisis is asking for internal documents that may prove that Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration knew about inmate overcrowding and that their suggested remedies would not possibly work.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Moulds gave the plaintiffs’ lawyers the go-ahead to start digging. Following an hourlong hearing in Sacramento, Moulds denied the state’s claims that the documents represented privileged information, and he gave the administration until noon today to turn them over to the plaintiffs.

“We think there are documents in there that they really don’t want to give us and that will really be at the heart of the case,” said Lori Rifkin, the San Francisco lawyer who successfully argued for the document release. “We think the documents will show that the overcrowding crisis is something the state can’t handle.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Bill Maile said after Moulds’ decision that the administration would appeal the decision to the three-judge court that was empaneled last summer to consider whether to cap the state’s prison population. Such an order could result in early releases for tens of thousands of prisoners.

Wow.  This could be an absolute bombshell.  So far the three-judge panel impaneled to examine the prison crisis has been willing to approve plaintiff requests.  We all know that it’s impossible to build out of this crisis.  Mental health and drug treatment programs as well as sentencing reform, addressing the root causes of the problem, are the only way.  Now we could find out that the Governor believed the same thing.  It’s almost a referendum on the prison crisis itself.

(Not to mention the glee of seeing Schwarzenegger try to claim executive privilege.)