While Burnett charitably described it as a “robust interagency process” he was taken aback by OMB general counsel Jeff Rosen’s ignorance about global warming-causing carbon dioxide molecules. Rosen requested that EPA only count carbon dioxide molecules in the air that came from automobiles, not ones from power plants. “It was sometimes embarrassing,” Burnett said, “For me to return to EPA and say that I had to explain to OMB that carbon dioxide is a molecule and you can’t differentiate in the air where a molecule came from.”
Burnett’s exasperation with Rosen was, unsurprisingly, not shared at the White House. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be the case. It turns out that about a month ago, President Bush nominated Rosen for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Rosen was also recently involved OMB’s efforts to resist a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ending with the invocation of executive privilege in order to avoid a contempt of Congress vote for Deputy Administrator Susan Dudley. Prior to joining OMB in June 2006, he served as General Counsel for the Department of Transportation. During that time, DOT promulgated fuel economy standards for light trucks that were later invalidated by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that their biases toward the auto industry and failure to account for climate-change impacts represented an “arbitrary and capricious” violation of the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) and National Environmental Policy Act (EPCA).
This nomination is particularly noteworthy given the D.C. District Court’s special powers to hear environmental cases—including some cases brought under the Clean Air Act. But with mere months to go in President Bush’s term and the obvious, serious concerns that Rosen would need to address before meriting confirmation, it’s somehow doubtful that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hasten to act on his nomination.
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.