The Bush administration is trying to create opposition to proposal to impose tough standards on motor vehicle emissions.
Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said documents and interviews showed that the White House approved a behind-the-scenes lobbying effort to urge members of Congress and state governors to oppose Environmental Protection Agency approval of the new California standards.
That lobbying campaign, Waxman said in a letter to James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, "sends an unmistakable message: the administration is trying to stack the deck against California's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles."
The council's spokeswoman, Kristen Hellmer, said the issue comes in the context of President George W. Bush's call for a national program to replace 20 percent of the U.S. gasoline use in 10 years through fuel efficiency and alternative fuels.
"Outreach by federal officials to state government counterparts and members of Congress on issues of major national policy is an appropriate and routine component of policy development," she said.
In December 2005 California sent the Environmental Protection Agency a request to waive the Clean Air Act so it could implement new greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light-duty trucks aimed at reducing global warming pollution from new vehicles by almost 30 percent by the year 2016.
Eleven other states have adopted the California standards but cannot enforce them unless the EPA grants the waiver.
The auto industry is opposed to the waiver, arguing that there should be one federal standard for tailpipe emissions. California officials have reproached the EPA for putting off a decision, which the EPA now says will come before the end of the year.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in an interview that he planned to sue the EPA next month over the "unconscionable delay." He said the Waxman disclosures revealed that "a far-reaching and very solid effort on the part of California is being frustrated by covert sabotage by the Department of Transportation."
Waxman's letter cited numerous e-mails and other communications among officials of the Department of Transportation, the Council on Environmental Quality and the EPA that he said showed the clear intent of the administration, led by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, to lobby against the waiver.