From the Wonk Room.
Today, President Obama took a step to reverse Bush-era intransigence on the fight against global warming, directing “federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks.” In 2002, California passed greenhouse gas standards for vehicle emissions, since adopted by 13 other states. However, they have been blocked since then by litigation from the automakers in concert with the Bush administration.
The auto lobby continues to fight this long-needed change. In an interview with National Public Radio, Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers claimed the California standard would bring catastrophe:
At this difficult time, what we need is certainty and consistency, not confusion and chaos. And I think we’re all concerned that this would create chaos, not only for consumers, but also for dealers and for manufacturers.The auto industry has long been able to handle California’s higher emissions standards for other pollutants. Jerry Brown, California’s attorney general, retorted that Detroit’s problems have come in large part because of its failure to innovate:
The irony here is the auto companies want a bailout, in many ways because they weren’t building the kind of cars that were compatible with today’s energy market – and at the same time, they want to keep going with their lawsuits, which have already cost millions and millions of dollars.
These auto industry lawsuits against the adoption of AB 1493 include:
MassachusettsMassachusetts et al v EPA et al
Status: Industry lost in federal appeals and Supreme Court.
In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled it would not regulate transportation sector greenhouse gases. Massachusetts and 11 other states sued the EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Auto industry trade groups argued in favor of the EPA’s inaction. The Court of Appeals ruled for the EPA in 2005. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the appeal, and on April 2, 2007 ruled that the EPA had to begin the regulatory process for greenhouse gases. On July 11, 2008, the Bush administration grudgingly published draft regulations.
CaliforniaCentral Valley Chrysler Jeep, et al v Goldstene et al (No. 08-17380)
Status: Industry lost in district court, filed federal appeal.
Filed in California district court in 2006 and stayed until the Supreme Court Mass v. EPA decision, the judge found against the plaintiffs in December 2007. The plaintiffs filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on October 30, 2008.
VermontGreen Mountain Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge v. Crombie (No. 07-4342, filed 10/5/2007, Second Circuit)
Status: Industry lost in district court, filed federal appeal.
On September 12, 2007, a federal judge in Vermont ruled that the state may impose its own greenhouse gas emission standards on automakers. Vermont Chrysler and Ford dealerships, with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Chrysler, and General Motors appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Rhode IslandLincoln Dodge, Inc et al v. Sullivan (No. 06-00070, filed 2/13/20065, District of Rhode Island)
Status: In district court.
On November 25, the district court in Rhode Island dismissed the automakers from the lawsuit, holding that they are already suing in California and Vermont. The co-plaintiff auto dealers are maintaining the suit.
New MexicoZangara Dodge, Inc et al. v. Ron Curry et al. (No. 07-01305, filed 12/27/2007, in District of New Mexico)
Status: In district court.
New Mexico car dealers and the National Automobile Dealers Association sued to block the New Mexico Clean Car program in April 2008.
MaineStatus: State court denied stay.
The Kennebec County Superior court denied a request by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to stay Maine’s standards, and refused to send the matter back to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) for reconsideration.
When asked by the Wonk Room how much his group is spending on these lawsuits, Territo said, “It’s not relevant how much money AAM has spent because there are so many other groups participating.”
The New York Times (John Broder and Peter Baker) and Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson) report that President Obama “plans to instruct key federal agencies to reexamine two policies that could force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars that yield fewer greenhouse gas emissions” Monday morning.
Obama’s main directives relate to California’s petition for an Environmental Protection Agency waiver to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the 2007 Energy Policy Act’s raised fuel economy standards. Under Bush, the EPA denied the California waiver and the Department of Transportation failed to issue the standards called for under the energy act.
In addition, the president will direct federal agencies to take steps to increase efficiency and reduce pollution.From the Times:
Mr. Obama’s presidential memorandum will order the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California application. While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process. . . .
Beyond acting on the California emissions law, officials said, Mr. Obama will direct the Transportation Department to quickly finalize interim nationwide regulations requiring the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency standards to comply with a 2007 law, rules that the Bush administration decided at the last minute not to issue.
To avoid losing another year, Mr. Obama will order temporary regulations to be completed by March so automakers have enough time to retool for vehicles sold in 2011. Final standards for later years will be determined by a separate process that under Mr. Obama’s order must take into consideration legal, scientific and technological factors.
He will also order federal departments and agencies to find new ways to save energy and be more environmentally friendly. And he will highlight the elements in his $825 billion economic stimulus plan intended to create jobs around renewable energy.
From the Wonk Room.
The Bush administration, though in the shadows of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition effort, continues to subvert the rule of law and impede action on global warming. Last week, the White House emailed mayors asking them to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft proposal for greenhouse gas regulations. According to the Washington Post, the email by Jeremy J. Broggi, associate director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs reminded mayors to formally submit complaints to the EPA:
At the time, President Bush warned that this was the wrong way to regulate emissions. Chairman John D. Dingell called it “a glorious mess.” And many of you contacted us to let us know how harmful this rule would be to the economies of the cities and counties you serve.
Broggi, a young Dick Cheney protegé, also linked to a November 20 U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog post by Bill Kovacs that makes the absurd claim regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act “will operate as a de facto moratorium on major construction and infrastructure projects.” Broggi’s lobbying against his own government is nothing new—last year the Department of Transportation lobbied Congress to oppose global warming regulations.
To avoid action on global warming despite a direct order from the Supreme Court, Bush’s people have brazenly flouted their Constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the law, ignoring science, ignoring Congressional subpoenas, even ignoring emails from the EPA. Just as former attorney general Alberto Gonzales claimed the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture was “quaint,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson called the Clean Air Act “outdated” and “ill-suited” to the task of regulating greenhouse gas emissions.However, it is the approach of the likes of George Bush, Stephen Johnson, Bill Kovacs, and John Dingell to the climate crisis that is “outdated,” “ill-suited,” and “a glorious mess”—not laws like the Clean Air Act. Robert Sussman, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and co-chairman of Obama’s EPA transition team, explained last month:
In fact, a new administration could enforce new global warming regulations with common sense, focusing on large emitters of greenhouse gases to achieve reasonable reductions while spurring trillions of dollars worth of economic growth and green-collar jobs.
Come January, Dingell will have been replaced as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), and the Bush administration by Obama’s team. Sadly, Kovacs will continue plugging his dangerous message of inaction, although major companies are starting to abandon the Chamber’s reactionary rhetoric.
Broggi’s email reminded Bush’s allies in “bold, underlined text” that the public comment period for these proposed regulations closes this Friday, November 28. You can join the We Campaign in sending the message that the EPA can and should take immediate action to control global warming and to help repower America.
The text of the email follows.
From: White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 6:12 PM
Subject: Reminder of November 28 deadline to comment on the EPA ANPR on greenhouse gas emissions
On July 11 the EPA released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) that suggests how the Clean Air Act might be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in our economy. At the time, President Bush warned that this was the wrong way to regulate emissions. Chairman John Dingell called it “a glorious mess”. And many of you contacted us to let us know how harmful this rule would be to the economies of the cities and counties you serve.
As you know, the White House asked the EPA to make the ANPR available for public comment, and has encouraged the public to do so. If you have planned to comment, this is a reminder that the comment period closes on November 28. Instructions on how to submit comments to the EPA can be found on their website: www.epa.gov/climatechange/anpr.html
You may be interested in reviewing the attached White House policy memo that lays out the issue in more detail. You may also be interested in reading the U.S. Chamber’s assessment of how the ANPR would affect various local building and infrastructure projects: www.chamberpost.com/2008/11/the-impact-climate-change-proposals-on-infrastructure.html
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Jeremy J. Broggi
The White House
From the Wonk Room.
John Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-Cal.)
A likely measure of the depth of Waxman’s support is last month’s statement of climate principles, signed by 152 members, or two-thirds of the Democratic caucus, on October 2. The letter, led by Waxman, Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jay Inslee (D-WA), details much stronger standards than were found in the draft legislation Dingell produced the following week.The National Journal reports:
Dingell is expected to win support from Majority Leader Hoyer, Midwestern Democrats, members of the Congressional Black Caucus – who typically back the seniority – and Blue Dog Coalition members.
The Blue Dogs are self-identified “conservative Democrats,” many of whom disproportionately supported Bush’s agenda. Dingell, it should be noted, is not a Blue Dog and is a strongly progressive voice on many issues.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the coal-country chairman of the Energy & Commerce subcommittee that controls greenhouse pollution legislation, echoed the conservative mantra that this election provided no mandate for change. Supporting Dingell, Boucher warned that it would be problematic “if the first action of the new majority … is a dramatic move to the left.”
However, this is not an ideological battle. For example, Waxman has secured the support of senior Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who told reporters he is “on Henry’s whip team.” Both Waxman and Dingell have made economic justice and public health central planks of their careers. Their differences are strategic, not ideological. Dingell’s work on climate change has emphasized the approach of protecting industry from economic harm, whereas Waxman believes that robust economic health will come from the transition to a clean energy economy.National Journal’s Dan Friedman has updated his report with details of a call with Dingell supporters who “forcefully rejected” the claim Waxman has sufficient support to oust Dingell:
“These claims that Mr. Waxman has the votes are just not true,” said Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich. “There is no doubt in my mind at the end of the day that Chairman Dingell will still be referred to as Chairman Dingell.” Stupak and Reps. John Barrow, D-Ga., and Mike Doyle, D-Pa. said Waxman has not made a clear case for why he should replace Dingell. “I asked [Waxman] quite pointedly what his basis for challenging Mr. Dingell was,” Doyle said. “He was unable to give me a single reason why he thought Mr. Dingell shouldn’t be chairman other than the fact that he [Waxman] would be a better chairman.”
From the Wonk Room.
John Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA)
In the 110th Congress, Dingell and Waxman took very different stances on global warming issues. In stark contrast, Dingell opposed California’s petition to set automotive emission standards for greenhouse gases, while Waxman led hearings to investigate why the EPA denied the California waiver.
The two also took different paths after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called in January, 2007, for rapid action on legislation that would limit greenhouse emissions. Waxman introduced the Safe Climate Act in March to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Dingell, a longtime defender of the auto industry, instead worked through a series of hearings and white papers on this complex issue to introduce draft legislation this October.
Dingell “put aside” the global warming legislation to push a provision in the 2007 energy bill that increased fuel economy standards for the first time in decades. When signed by President Bush in December, it marked a major achievement for the environment and the economy—but has since been used by the Bush administration for an excuse for inaction on mandatory global warming regulations.
As Roll Call writes, “The move marks a major showdown between two Democratic powerhouses.”E&E News reports:
“This is a fight for all the marbles,” said one refining industry lobbyist. “If Henry gets this, my god, given the scope of jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, all hell will break loose legislatively if Waxman chairs this thing.”
In a letter addressed to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the presidents of four unions representing career EPA scientists write of their collective dismay at Johnson’s handling of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson criticized his own agency’s work, calling the Clean Air Act “ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.” In addition, letters of comment criticizing the rulemaking draft were attached from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy.This July 30 letter, published by Publice Employees for Environmental Responsibility, reveals that the EPA staff were not allowed to review these letters of criticism before they were prepended to the ANPR. The union presidents write:
“The way in which you subverted the work of EPA staff in your preamble statement on the merits of the supporting rationale for the ANPRM was as unprecedented as it was stunning to your staff and damaging to EPA’s reputation for sound science and policy.”
They conclude: “We hope that in your final days in office you will try to rectify some of this damage and remove some of the tarnish from your legacy.”
Full text:It is in the spirit of partnership between EPA workers and managers toward fulfilling the Agency’s mission that we address this letter to you.
We write on behalf of the EPA employees that we represent to express our collective dismay over the way in which the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), “Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under the Clean Air Act,” was presented for public comment.
The way in which you subverted the work of EPA staff in your preamble statement on the merits of the supporting rationale for the ANPRM was as unprecedented as it was stunning to your staff and damaging to EPA’s reputation for sound science and policy. And the fact that EPA’s experts who worked on this ANPRM were not given the opportunity to read or address the adverse comments of OMB, USDA, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, and the Department of Transportation in advance of the ANPRM publication is troubling and, quite frankly, unprofessional. We believe that EPA’s hardworking, dedicated staff has earned more respect than you are giving. It makes your public and private pronouncements of thanks to EPA staff ring hollow. We would ask you to allow these EPA experts to submit responses to these agency submissions as part of the ANPRM public comment process.
The decision to publish the critiques of other agencies in the name of “transparency” in decision-making is both disingenuous and counterproductive. A far more direct contribution would be made to the credibility and transparency of EPA decision-making if you cooperated with congressional requests for documents and hearings. The professional staff of EPA has nothing to hide. In fact, contrary to your assertions of executive privilege, the free flow of policy recommendations would be aided by opening up all (not just selected) communications to public scrutiny.
Based on the media-covered responses to the ANPRM in the Wall Street Journal 1 and from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s William Kovacs2, EPA is being portrayed as foolish and dictatorial. Your action has lent support to critics like those above and the indicted former Congressman Tom Delay who characterize EPA’s civil servants – who are sworn to duty and charged with helping to protect the environment – as virtual enemies of the United States, an outrage that is unacceptable. We fear your action may make it more difficult for EPA and your successor, whether he or she takes office in January or before, to act decisively to protect the environment and public health. Without the public’s respect and support, EPA’s work to implement the environmental laws of our nation is jeopardized. The silence from your office in the face of such calumny and your failure to come to the Agency’s defense, wounds us far more than the ranting of Delay, Kovacs and the Wall Street Journal.
You were once one of us. We were proud when you were nominated as the first of us to occupy the Administrator’s Office, and we expected great things. Our disappointment is profound. We hope that in your final days in office you will try to rectify some of this damage and remove some of the tarnish from your legacy.
From the Progress Report.
A coalition of states and environmental groups intends to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “if it does not act soon to reduce pollution from ships, aircraft and off-road vehicles.” California Attorney General Jerry Brown is set to send a letter to the EPA in which he will “accuse the Bush administration of ignoring their requests to set restrictions” on greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA will have 180 days to respond. Under the Clean Air Act, “a U.S. district court can compel the EPA to take action to protect the public’s welfare if the agency delays doing so for an unreasonably long time.”
“It’s a necessary pressure to get the job done,” Brown said of the lawsuit. “The issue of reducing our energy dependence and greenhouse gas emissions is so challenging and so important that we have to follow this judicial pathway.”
This week, lawmakers called on EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to resign because he has become “a secretive and dangerous ally of polluters.”
A vote on the issuance of a subpoena for the draft endangerment finding on global warming emissions rejected at the highest levels in the White House was stymied when Republican members boycotted the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works business meeting, preventing a quorum.
Ironically, the committee’s ranking minority member, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), put out a press release complaining about the “Democratic Party’s Obstruction,” with respect to acceding to Republican demands for voting on their terms on increased drilling and development of unconventional fuels.
White House counsel Fred Fielding, in a July 21 letter to Boxer, refused to voluntarily turn over the document, explaining:
Your letter, by its very terms, calls for pre-decisional and deliberative communications of White House advisors and Executive Branch officials. For these reasons, the request plainly implicates well-established separation of powers concerns and Executive Branch confidentiality interests.The committee’s chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was reduced to issuing a statement on the humiliating treatment she and fellow Senators have received in investigating the EPA decision:
Three Senators huddled around one document – an EPA document that concludes that global warming endangers the American people, a document kept from the public by the White House. United States Senators compelled to take whatever notes they can, from a document only revealed to us under the watchful eyes of two White House lawyers.
Boxer did reveal excerpts of the draft endangerment finding, which has been made public in redacted and altered form as the “Draft Technical Support Document – Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act” to the “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act.”
The draft finding, which reflected EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s decision to recognize the threat of global warming, includes the following excerpt:
In sum, the Administrator is proposing to find that elevated levels of GHG concentrations may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare.
Johnson reversed his decision under pressure from the White House.
From the Wonk Room.
After over a year of battles with the White House and other federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency has published its response to the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which mandated that the agency determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to our health and welfare and take action in response. With today’s publication of an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson ignores the threat and attacks the rule of law.
Johnson published his staff’s document – after extensive cuts from the White House – with complaints attached from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy.
In one voice, the other agencies attack the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as “deeply flawed and unsuitable,” “fundamentally ill-suited,” “extraordinarily intrusive and burdensome,” “unilateral and extraordinarily burdensome,” “drastic,” “dramatic,” “excessive,” “extremely expensive,” and “costly and burdensome.” The clear and present threat of global warming is dismissed as a “complex” issue that hinges on “interpretation of statutory terms.”Sadly, Johnson decided to join them, attacking the immense work done by his staff to address the catastrophic threat of climate change:
I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act, an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects, is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.
In his press conference announcing the release of today’s decision, Johnson reiterated his opinion that the Clean Air Act is the “wrong tool” for the task, “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”This is yet another case where Johnson is following the example of the likes of disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who made similar statements about the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture as White House Counsel:
As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.Similarly, the White House’s arguments in defense of ignoring the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s ban on warrantless wiretapping:
Reverting to the outdated FISA statute risks our national security. FISA’s outdated provisions created dangerous intelligence gaps, which is why Congress passed the Protect America Act in the first place.
George W. Bush, Stephen Johnson, and the other officers of the executive branch swore an oath to “faithfully execute” their office and defend the Constitution. They have evidently decided to break that vow, time and again. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Bush administration, it’s always the “quaint,” “outdated,” “burdensome,” and “ill-suited” laws that are the problem—never their reckless abandonment of principle and duty.
From the Wonk Room.
Last fall, as the Environmental Protection Agency worked to satisfy its Supreme Court mandate to protect the American public from the threat of greenhouse gases, White House officials took steps to prevent such action. In a letter responding to questions by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, former EPA official Jason K. Burnett implicated the Office of the Vice President, Dick Cheney, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality for censoring “any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change” in testimony to Congress.
Although Burnett refused to assist in the efforts, the October testimony of Dr. Julie Geberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was “eviscerated,” with ten pages detailing the specific health threats of global warming – ranging from heat waves to floods – eliminated. After initial denials of White House interference, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino later claimed that the Office of Management and Budget had redacted testimony that contained “broad characterizations about climate change science that didn’t align with the IPCC.”
In fact, Burnett tells Sen. Boxer that the reason for the cuts was to “keep options open” for the EPA to avoid making an endangerment finding for global warming pollution, which would trigger immediate consequences for polluters. He writes:
On December 5th, under the direction of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Burnett emailed a formal endangerment finding to the White House Office of Management and Budget, but received a “phone call from the White House” that asked Burnett “to send a follow-up note saying that the email had been sent in error.” He declined to retract the email, which remained unread. Two weeks later, on December 19, Johnson put an end to EPA’s work on global warming regulations and rejected California’s petition to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.
This May, Burnett resigned from the EPA. In June, President Bush asserted executive privilege to block investigation of his involvement. Boxer has called Burnett to testify before her committee on July 22, in a hearing on “the most recent evidence of the serious danger posed by global warming.” In a statement today, Boxer said:
History will judge this Bush Administration harshly for recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect.
Read Dr. Gerberding’s unredacted testimony here.