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    Sens. Feinstein & Boxer Back Gov. Schwarzenegger Request for EPA Waiver On CA Gasoline Oxygenate Req't

    (April 18, 2004) -- CA's two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct an "expeditious review" of a request by CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for a waiver from the Clean Air oxygenate requirement.

    In an April 14 letter to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt, the Senators said "California's request for a waiver is based on evidence that the waiver would actually improve air quality." The Senators also said the use of oxygenates like ethanol may be contributing to California's recent high gas prices.

    As first reported on April 6 by, Governor Schwarzenegger has asked the EPA to exempt CA from certain federal rules...a waiver that the Governor says could help moderate price spikes, increase refiners' flexibility in producing gasoline...and improve air quality. posts a copy of the Senators' letter to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt below:

    April 14, 2004

    The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20460

    Dear Administrator Leavitt:

    We are writing to request information on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans for reviewing California's request for a waiver from the Clean Air Act oxygenate requirement.

    As you know, the California Air Resources Board requested this waiver in April of 1999. In June of 2001, EPA denied California's request. California sued the EPA, arguing that it did not properly weigh the effect of the proposed waiver on air pollution. As you know, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with California, vacated the order and remanded it for review in July of 2003. EPA petitioned for a rehearing, which was denied on October 30, 2003.

    Pursuant to this order, EPA must now reconsider California's request for a waiver. There is no excuse for delay.

    On February 6, Senator Feinstein asked you for a timeline for EPA's reconsideration of California's oxygenate waiver request. She has still not received a response. We again request that you provide the following information with a timeline and the steps EPA will undertake in its reconsideration of California's request. In addition, please detail the information that EPA will be reviewing in making its determination and provide us with copies of all documents. Finally, please provide us with a list of the offices and personnel that will be undertaking the review, and their respective responsibilities, including offices not located within EPA.

    California's request for a waiver is based on evidence that the waiver would actually improve air quality. California has demonstrated that alternatives to oxygenates exist today that would make it easier for California to comply with the Clean Air Act. Further, the cost of using ethanol, one oxygenate, may be contributing to California's recent gas price increases. The use of MTBE, another oxygenate, is banned in California due to the widespread water contamination that it has caused.

    An expeditious review of California's request for a waiver from the oxygenate requirement will ensure clean air in California and ease the high prices we are paying for gasoline. Granting a waiver is a win-win situation.

    Given the time sensitive nature of these issues, we ask for a response no later than Wednesday, April 28, 2004.


    Barbara Boxer
    United States Senate

    Dianne Feinstein
    United States Senate

    Related coverage:

  • March 2004: Assemblywoman Oropeza Holds Hearing On Soaring Gasoline Prices

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