Friday, July 18, 2008

Markey: Oil Industry Behind White House Switch On Global Warming

Jul 18: According to a release from Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a Committee investigation has found that members of government at the highest levels, including "the office of President George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff and numerous heads of Cabinet departments, had decided to use the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming emissions not only from vehicles, but also from power plants, refineries, and other so-called stationary sources – but reversed their decision in the face of strong opposition from ExxonMobil and others within the oil industry, as well as from at least one senior adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney."

Markey said, "This is the dysfunctions and motivations of the Bush administration laid bare. The fact that they can, with near unanimity, completely switch positions on global warming to please the oil industry is shocking, and yet disappointingly predictable." The investigation by the Select Committee is based on an on-the-record interview with a former high-ranking EPA official, Jason Burnett, confidential discussions with other EPA staff, and review of EPA documents obtained in response to a Select Committee subpoena.

On July 11, when EPA released its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) soliciting public input on the effects of climate change and the potential ramifications of the Clean Air Act in relation to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Administrator Stephen Johnson said, "While EPA’s staff has done an outstanding job making a square peg fit into a round hole, I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases. Based on the analyses to date, pursuing this course of action would take decades and inevitably result in a very complicated and likely, convoluted set of regulations. If our nation is truly serious about regulating greenhouse gases, the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool for the job" [See WIMS 7/11/08].

According to a summary of the investigation included in Markey's release, highlighting some key points:

  • President Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan and numerous heads of cabinet agencies -- including Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Office of Management and Budget’s Susan E. Dudley, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James L. Connaughton, among others -- and White House offices endorsed EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public welfare, and EPA’s proposals that greenhouse gas emissions from both vehicles and stationary sources including power plants and refineries should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
  • White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kaplan personally approved EPA’s plan to go forward with a positive endangerment finding, which would necessitate the regulation of greenhouse gas regulations for motor vehicles and fuels, as well as trigger regulation of stationary source emissions under the Clean Air Act.
  • While electric utility representatives, including the Edison Electric Institute (which represents the nation’s major investor-owned utilities), agreed that it would be best for EPA to proceed with regulation of both vehicles and stationary sources using Clean Air Act authority, oil industry representatives from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, adopted a "not on my watch" approach – arguing that such regulations would tarnish President Bush’s conservative anti-regulatory legacy, and should be delayed until the next President took office.
  • Doing the oil industry’s bidding, the Bush administration reversed course on regulating heat-trapping emissions – opting to do nothing and leave it to the next president to respond to the serious environmental threat of global warming. This decision was made at the very highest level within the White House. The winning argument against regulatory action had the support of the Office of Vice President Cheney, including Vice President Cheney’s energy adviser, F. Chase Hutto III.
  • Most of the cabinet secretaries and heads of White House offices who recently wrote letters opposing use of the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming emissions – which were appended to the release of EPA’s July 11, 2008 "Advance Notice of Proposed Regulation" – had previously supported regulation of both vehicles and stationary sources under the act.
Markey's charges add to other similar investigations in the House and Senate. On July 8, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee held a press briefing on the issue of White House Interference in Addressing the Dangers of Global Warming following information received from Jason Burnett, who responded to an inquiry from her committee. She said, "History will judge this Bush Administration harshly for recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect." [See WIMS 7/9/08].

Additionally, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is still deciding how to proceed on his investigation of White House interference, since the President asserted executive privilege over thousands of pages of documents that Waxman says would show whether the President and his staff complied with the Clean Air Act (CAA) in overruling EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on important environmental decisions [See WIMS 6/20/08].

Access a release from Representative Markey (click here). Access the full 35-page investigative report (click here). Access the 64-page transcript of the interview with Jason Burnett (click here). [*Climate]