Obama Adviser: If EPA is Blocked on Emissions, Forget About CAFE Deal

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson extended an olive branch this week to lawmakers who are pushing to block her from regulating carbon emissions in the absence of a congressional climate bill, but Jackson’s promise to delay action until next year appears to have made no headway with Republicans and coal-state Democrats. 

carol_browner_obama_photo1.jpgCarol Browner, at right, with the president. (Photo: TreeHugger)

If Congress succeeds in blocking the EPA from following through on a Supreme Court mandate to regulate emissions, a legislative path to nationwide pollution limits would effectively become the sole means for the Obama administration to follow through on commitments it made at last year’s Copenhagen climate summit.

But White House climate adviser Carol Browner noted today that a congressional block on the EPA’s authority would have a second wave of consequences for transportation policy — it would jettison the Obama administration’s much-heralded deal to raise auto fuel-efficiency standards to 35.5 mile per gallon by 2016.

"I don’t know why members [of Congress] would want to go out and vote against the science of climate change," Browner told attendees at a climate conference sponsored by The New Republic.

Without EPA authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, she explained, "there is no car rule" — referring to the agreement to adopt California’s landmark efficiency standards as a national model.

"If the car rule were not to go forward, California would still have all its authorities," Browner added, meaning that the auto industry’s fears of compliance with a "patchwork" of regional fuel standards would become a reality.

Browner’s comments came as climate legislation continues to lose momentum in the Senate, giving more political ammunition to lawmakers and industry representatives who seek to stall the process.

Yet Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), one of three negotiators working on a "tri-partisan" climate deal in the upper chamber, took a notably upbeat tone today on the prospects for action this year, and Browner concurred with Kerry’s sentiment.

"We’re all now playing the same game inside the same stadium," she said. "The question is, can we bring it to a successful conclusion? … We’re fully engaged in this effort."

One move the White House won’t make, per Browner, is to release its own set of specific climate proposals, similar to the health care reform plan released by the president this week. That leaves unclear the administration’s stance on several simmering environmental debates, including the share of revenue from a future climate bill that should go to clean transportation.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Automakers Oppose Congressional Bid to Bar EPA From Limiting Emissions

|
The auto industry today aligned with the White House in the debate over a congressional bid to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon emissions while lawmakers work to pass a climate bill, warning that such an attempt to yank EPA authority "would collapse" last year’s agreement to raise fuel-efficiency standards. (Photo: TreeHugger) […]

Obama’s Climate Speech: Mostly Mum on Transportation

|
President Obama announced a sweeping package of measures to address climate change¬†today. But with a couple of exceptions, he was largely silent on the 27 percent of carbon emissions that come from the transportation sector. One of the most important reforms the president announced is presidential memorandum he plans to issue to the EPA to […]

EPA Chief Urges a More Urban Environmentalism to Fight Climate Change

|
With Congress returning to work next week after a month away from Washington, a national dialogue long dominated by health care is about to open to the long-awaited Senate debate on climate change. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson (Photo: Legal Planet) But industry-funded efforts to derail legislative action are already receiving undeservedly credible coverage in the […]

Today’s Headlines

|
Talking in-depth with Gabe Klein, D.C.’s pro-bike and pro-transit director of transportation (WaPo) The overall benefits of freight traffic improvements, such as those funded by the TIGER program (Greenwire) A look at the four GOP House candidates for 2010 who also own large auto dealerships (Roll Call) The U.S. DOT echoes White House adviser Browner […]

On Emissions, CA Lawmaker Questions Whether CA Should Lead the Way

|
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson today told House members that she would soon begin work on new auto fuel-efficiency rules for the year 2017 and beyond, responding to calls from carmakers searching for certainty — and warily eyeing the new fuel standards being crafted in California. (Photo: The Weekly Driver) The political and […]

Senate Democrats Poke Holes in GOP’s Climate Change ‘Boycott’

|
Republicans on the Senate environment committee made good on their vow to boycott this morning’s first meeting on climate change legislation, leaving Democrats to poke holes in the GOP’s insistence on a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis of the bill. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) visited the environment panel this morning to read a statement […]