House Member Says Air Board Tried to “Mislead Congress”

Mary Nichols chairs the California Air Resources Board.” credit=”The National Academy of Sciences/Flickr

ARB’s response to inquiry wasn’t what Orange County Republican had in mind

Orange County Republican Darrell Issa says he remains “deeply troubled” by what he calls a “lack of candor” & “internal inconsistencies” in the California Air Resource Board’s (ARB) response to his November 9th letter probing negotiations toward a new national fuel economy standard. (You can read my original post on Rep. Issa’s and Nichols first round of correspondence here.)

Issa now charges that the initial response from ARB Chair Mary Nichols “appear[s] to be a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress and obstruct an official investigation.”

Reached today for comment, ARB spokesperson Stanley Young expressed some apparent exasperation in an email, saying, “We will respond to the letter and look forward to once again explaining how California’s efforts are designed to save consumers money, increase the nation’s energy security and help fight climate change.”

[module align=”left” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]Issa calls response “a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress and obstruct an official investigation.”[/module]

Issa heads the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the volley of letters between it and ARB are part of his investigation into the process that led to the recently announced fuel economy and emission standards for light and heavy-duty vehicles. Issa contends that California overstepped its authority by setting fuel economy standards, a task left to the federal government. The ARB maintains it set only emission standards, with authority backed by federal waivers and several court decisions.

In parsing Nichols’ responses, Issa appears to charge that ARB asked auto manufacturers to adhere to two standards: corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (part of the federal Department of Transportation), and the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas emission regulations. Nichols’ stated in her November response that California “agreed to accept [automakers’] compliance” with EPA’s emission standards, as a way to “harmonize” the two.

Issa next questions ARB’s relationship with the NHTSA. Nichols told the Committee that it could not furnish any documents or communications “because [C]ARB was not involved in negotiating an agreement.” Issa counters by pointing out that ARB, according to its own records, “met with NHTSA on at least 116 separate occasions.” He calls the Air Board’s assertion that it did not “negotiate with NHTSA…demonstrably false.” Nichols characterized the relationship as a “collaboration.”

As for the Board’s assertion that its actions have been supported by the courts, Issa counters that Nichols has been cherry-picking her case law, writing that the “agency prefers to cling to the trial-level decisions of two Democrat-appointed district court judges.” He concludes his 11-page letter by once again asserting that the real effect of the ARB’s actions is to “de facto” set fuel economy regulations. “[C]ARB cannot escape this conclusion by calling its…regulations by another name.”

Issa has asked for a response by January 9.


House Member Says Air Board Tried to “Mislead Congress” 1 February,2018Kimberly Ayers

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Kimberly Ayers

Kimberly Ayers has lived in California for more than 20 years, both north and south. Growing up in the Middle East as an "oil brat," she has been blessed with lots of travel. Her storytelling has appeared most recently on the National Geographic Channel, including reporting from Belize and Egypt. For the past four years, she has produced the PBS stations' broadcast of the National Geographic Bee: the questions are really hard, and the kids are crazy-smart. At forty-something, she walked the Catalina Marathon, and most mornings you will find her walking somewhere on the SoCal coast.

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