Nominations of Lisa P. Jackson to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Nancy Helen Sutley to be Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 14 Jan 2009 15:00:00 GMT

  • Lisa P. Jackson, Nominated to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Nancy Helen Sutley, Nominated to be Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality

10:00 Boxer: Today marks a turning point for the environment and the health of the United States. I want to welcome Mrs. Jackson, who I’ve had the privilege to have several discussions in my office. Nancy Sutley has a strong record of service in my state of California. The mission of the EPA is to protect the public health and the environment. EPA must rely on science, not special interests. The chair of the CEQ needs to bring all the voices in the administration together.

10:11 Inhofe: What exactly is going to be the role of the new energy czar Carol Browner?

10:15 Lautenberg (D-N.J.): I am delighted to be able to greet Lisa Jackson. Lisa has fought to keep our state’s air clean. The challenges facing our environment are serious, numerous, and require immediate action.

10:20 Bob Menendez (D-N.J.): I’m proud to join my colleague in presenting Lisa Jackson to the committee. Her scientific background complements her managerial experience. I believe she will be the best administrator in the history of the department we have seen. In New Jersey, only the strong survive. Not only has she survived, she has thrived.

10:25 Boxer (D-Cal.): I’m going to miss Sens. Bond and Voinovich. But we keep renewing this Senate. Even when we disagree we’ve had a great working relationship.

10:26 Bond: We’ll do everything we can to keep it interesting.

10:27 Inhofe: We had breakfast this morning with the new members. I will really miss these two guys.

10:27 Klobuchar: I welcome our two new members. I enjoyed meeting with Jackson and Sutley. First, to quote Sen. Clinton, I’ve been very concerned that the EPA has been “operating in an evidence-free zone.” I’d like no more redacted testimony, and no more testimony intended to mislead on the facts and the law. Home-grown energy will generate a boom in our economy. I look forward to your thoughts how protecting the environment will create a 21st-century economy.

10:31 Barrasso: Congratulations to both of you, and thank you for both coming to my office. We in Wyoming are concerned when federal laws are used in ways they were never intended. Ranchers and miners in Wyoming know that dealing with climate change through the Clean Air Act would be a disaster. Turning the Endangered Species Act into a climate change bill is something Congress never intended. The true intent of the Clean Water Act—there’s overwhelming objection to extending jurisdiction over all water in the United States.

10:35 Boxer: We really have very big differences. You’re not going to make everybody happy. If you do, you’re doing nothing.

10:36 Merkley: We’ll miss Voinovich and Bond’s experience.

10:38 Bond: I want to protect the natural resources of Missouri. I was the co-author of the acid rain emissions trading provisions of the Clean Air Act. We need to protect our families. We’re suffering right now. They’re facing the housing crisis and job loss. Protecting families from climate change proposals that would raise costs by $6.7 trillion. That means zero-carbon nuclear power. Cellulosic ethanol. We want clean cars. We want clean coal technology. But we can’t support proposals from East and West Coast states that would kill Midwest manufacturing. We want to find a middle ground.

10:42 Carper: We can no longer afford inaction on climate change or air pollution. We must send the right signals to industry. We need leaders that can build alliances. I can think of noone more qualified to lead the EPA and the CEQ than Ms. Jackson and Ms. Sutley. Inaction means that thousands will die prematurely from pollution, thousands of children will be exposed to mercury.

10:47 Alexander: I enjoyed our meeting. Sen. Carper and I have worked together quite a bit: we need a new CAIR rule and a new rule on mercury. In discussions about climate change, I hope you will focus on carbon-free solutions and be skeptical of so-called renewable solutions—they’re just wind. Windmills on our ridges would interfere with our views of the Smokies. Subsidies for wind are 27 times greater per kilowatt-hour than any other renewables. All revenues from cap and trade should be returned to the people. A carbon-free fuel standard and cap and trade for power plants would cover two-thirds of all carbon emitted, then return all the money collected to people having trouble paying their energy bills.

10:51 Cardin: Thank you for being willing to serve. I’ve had the chance to talk with both of you in my office. The first issue I’m going to bring up is the Chesapeake Bay.

10:55 Isakson (R-Ga.): I’m very impressed by her resume, Tulane and Princeton. One of the unintended consequences of regulation is that it sometimes doesn’t work. There are ways to find flexibility. The potential regulation of greenhouse gases by the department has included the possibility of taxation on livestock. We have to be very careful about regulating natural emissions. I didn’t always agree with Carol Browner but she had a lot of sense. I was proud to be able to talk with you, Ms. Sutley, yesterday. It’s very important that we come up with a working water plan.

10:58 Whitehouse (D-R.I.): It is a perilous and fascinating time. With respect to the EPA, this is an agency that has fallen into significant distress. It needs its integrity restored. The people who work at the EPA give up a great deal in their lives. They’re not significantly well paid. They take pride in the mission. If you take away that pride by taking away the integrity of the agency, you risk taking away the key element of the agency’s success. Johnson has been a disgrace to this country.

11:02 Voinovich (R-Ohio): I think this next two years may be the most important two years I’ve served. I think some of the work we do on this committee is going to shape what the future looks like. I enjoyed our meeting in my office. For the record, I think Steve Johnson did an outstanding job as head of the EPA.

11:06 Lautenberg (D-N.J.): The EPA prevented action at the local levels. Under Mr. Johnson, the EPA sided with industry more often than not. The current administration has failed to provide sufficient funding to support the Superfund program. It’s time to usher in a better and brighter future.

11:10 Merkley (D-Ore.): It has been our experience in the past few years that it’s been up to the states to take the lead. We have the most aggressive renewable energy standard. The most aggressive energy efficiency standards for appliances.

11:15 Baucus (D-Mont.): Asbestos is an insidious poison.

11:17 Vitter (R-La.): I haven’t had a chance to visit with Nancy Sutley.

11:20 Jackson: Opening statement.

11:25 Baucus: Asbestos in Libby, Montana.

Jackson: It sounds like one of the worst sites I’ve heard of. I will report within 90 days on this issue.

Baucus: EPA’s never done a toxicity assessment.

11:33 Inhofe: Sen. Boxer and I genuinely like each other. This job is really tough. I was really pleased that you talked about transparency. This is very important. I don’t agree with the criticisms with the current administration not being forthcoming. I think they have. There’s never been a director who’s been more qualified than Stephen Johnson. I think he did a very good job.

Jackson: I look forward to working with this committee.

Inhofe: You were very emphatic about science. You said, science is my guide. That’s music to my ears. I know people don’t want to talk about it, but so many individuals have changed their mind on global warming. I want a commitment that you will take the time in the next two weeks that you will pull up my speech on the floor, and meet with you at some point.

Jackson: I’m happy to exchange views with you and to read your speech.

11:49 Boxer: It seems to a lot of us that there are disasters waiting to happen. EPA has authority to act. Will you commit to quickly assess the sites for immediate hazards and establish strong standards?

Jackson: EPA must assess the hundreds of sites out there immediately. Many are upstream of schools. I think EPA needs to assess first and foremost the current state. That’s only the beginning. EPA has in the past assessed its regulatory options with coal ash. It’s time to reassess those options.

Boxer: Sen Carper is going to have authority over TVA. We may move legislatively, but I think you have the authority to act. Rep. Rahall is looking to regulate under the Mining Act. I don’t think that’s necessary. Last year, President-elect Obama co-sponsored my bill to grant the California waiver. Will you immediately revisit the waiver?

Jackson: You have my commitment I will immediately revisit the waiver, looking at the science and the rule of law, relying on the advice of the staff.

11:55 Barrasso: On coal ash, I talked about clean coal technology with the nominee for Sec. of Energy and Interior. We don’t want to limit new technology.

Jackson: Coal is a vital resource in our country. It provides about 50% of our electricity. We have to mention in the same breath that it is the largest source of greenhouse emissions. We must invest aggressively in a technology that will work.

Barrasso: In the Financial Times, an article talks about what we’re asking people to do – to save the planet, they have to clean their teeth in the dark.

Jackson: One of the ways to begin to address climate change today is energy efficiency. Changing our habits, our appliances. I prefer not to think of this as pain as individual responsibility. People need to understand they have a responsibility in the choices they make. We should give them choices, allow them to have energy-efficient homes, more efficient cars.

Barrasso: Obama is going to appoint Carol Browner as White House adviser.

Jackson: Final EPA decisions will be made by the EPA administrator.

Barrasso: If you two disagree?

Jackson: I take very seriously my legal responsibility to enact the laws of Congress. Advisers can agree and disagree.

Barrasso: Questions of Congressional intent.

Jackson: I believe the laws are meant to have the flexibility to deal with the issues of today. I will commit to an ongoing conversation.

Barrasso: Unfunded mandates to states have grown.

Jackson: Budget realities for states are playing out every day. The EPA administrator has a role in formulating the President’s budget. Much of the permitting and enforcement work happens at the state level.

12:04 Lautenberg: I feel in some ways you’re part of my group. This is an engine that can’t stop. You were instrumental in writing New Jersey’s global warming law.

Jackson: We now have a modest cap-and-trade program operating in ten Northeast states. I look forward to sharing that experience with those in the committee that want to. There’s a tremendous role for states and municipalities in terms of reducing global warming emissions.

Lautenberg: We have to eliminate or certainly reduce this attack on the welfare of our children. We are facing something if unchecked will affect the health of future generations to a disastrous level.

12:12 Isakson: I have a suggestion for you to consider: people in regulatory positions can assume their relationship with those they regulate is adversarial, or they can work with businesses. I hope you’ll work on the issue of downstream pollution.

Jackson: As a resident of a state that gets one-third of its pollution from outside sources, I well understand the conundrum of meeting attainment standards.

Isakson: Taxing cattlemen that emit methane naturally since God created the earth.

Jackson: My commitment is that we will have conversations with stakeholders. All industries have the potential to do environmental harm. We have to make sure they are ready to deal with the future.

Isakson: Erosion control and the Clean Water Act.

12:19 Boxer: I can assure you that 80% of this country are much more worried that we’ve done nothing on CO2.

12:21 Whitehouse: There’s some dispute on this committee on whether the EPA is in distress. I don’t think there’s any dispute within the EPA.

Jackson: The role of the Inspector General is important.

Whitehouse: Watch out for OMB. It has become the political bullyboy influencing agency decisionmaking. I’ve spoken to Peter Orszag about this. Cass Sunstein’s appearance promises reform. Rhode Island is one of the states participating in the California waiver. How much can you go forward on your own?

Jackson: Much of the initial agenda for the EPA is now set by court decisions. I will review the California waiver decision forthwith. The Supreme Court has ordered the EPA to make an endangerment finding. When that finding is made, it triggers the beginning of the regulatory process. Another court decision on CAIR commands EPA to review that. All those things together means there will be an extraordinary burst of activity not just from EPA but also from Congress. I think there is a real opportunity to move together. Industry would prefer a clear roadmap. I think there is tremendous opportunity there.

12:29 Boxer: Obama committed not to reviewing the waiver, but signing the waiver. TVA needs to stop bemoaning commitments to the environment.

12:32 Cardin: We look forward to the California waiver going forward. Chesapeake bay and lead poisoning.

Jackson: Lead poisoning in children is an important issue.

12:39 Carper.

12:50 Voinovich: It would be great to get Browner together with the committee. We haven’t done very much in this committee. We haven’t been able to harmonize issues of energy, economy, environment. A hundred communities are being asked to take care of their combined-sewer overflow problems. We have an interesting environment today. We need to do more planning than ever before. I think there’s an urgency about climate change. It has national security implications. But how do you do something without killing the economy?

Jackson: We need to be able to review our rules: Are they legal, are they sustainable, are they based on science?

1:02 Merkley: We have one lifetime to address climate change.

1:32 Boxer: Perchlorate. Superfund.

1:50 Jackson hearing concludes.

2:05 Sutley: I will play an important role in formulating the executive branch’s policy on climate change. There is effectively no agency that is not touched by these issues. It will be a complete effort by the executive branch.

Boxer: OMB role.

Sutley: The OMB has executive order responsibilities. I think science decisions and science review should be done by science experts in the agencies. I don’t expect people in the OMB unless they are scientists to review the science.

Boxer: OMB has gotten involved and called the shots. It’s a red flag. The Obama OMB may be different from the Bush OMB. We look to you for leadership on the environment. From what you’ve said, I feel good about it. The IRIS program.

2:16 Whitehouse: You play everybody who participated in the public process for a fool when you make actual decisions in secret. The entire agency process was a sham, all done behind closed doors by OMB and the White House. This is an issue I’ve taken up with OMB.

2:19 Sutley: The question of how the role of the climate adviser is formulated is an important one. The CEQ will retain all of its statutory roles. The EPA administrator will continue her advisory role. Climate change is one of the most important issues of the day. I can tell you that we will be working together closely, and the decisions of which policies the president will pursue will be his decision.

Whitehouse: Will you report to Carol Browner on issues of climate change?

Sutley: I know we will work together very closely.

Whitehouse: Oceans.

2:27 Boxer: There are some questions in writing that we would like answers to by Friday so we can move on the nominations. We stand adjourned.

Obama Announces Climate Team

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 16 Dec 2008 01:39:00 GMT

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his selections for his energy and environment team today: Dr. Steven Chu for Secretary of Energy, Lisa Jackson for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Nancy Sutley for chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Carol Browner for a new White House position as chief energy and climate adviser. Heather Zichal was also named as deputy assistant to the President on climate and energy policy.

Below are Barack Obama’s remarks:
Good afternoon. Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have announced key members of our economic and national security teams. In the 21st century, we know that the future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy. So today, we’re pleased to introduce the team that will lead our efforts on energy and the environment.

In the next few years, the choices that we make will help determine the kind of country – and world – that we will leave to our children and grandchildren. All of us know the problems rooted in our addiction to foreign oil – it constrains our economy, shifts wealth to hostile regimes, and leaves us dependent on unstable regions. These urgent dangers are eclipsed only by the long-term threat of climate change, which – unless we act – will lead to drought and famine abroad, devastating weather patterns and terrible storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline at home.

For over three decades, we’ve listened to a growing chorus of warnings about our energy dependence. We’ve heard President after President promise to chart a new course. We’ve heard Congress talk about energy independence, only to pull up short in the face of opposition from special interests. We’ve seen Washington launch policy after policy. Yet our dependence on foreign oil has only grown, even as the world’s resources are disappearing.

This time must be different. This time we cannot fail, nor be lulled into complacency simply because the price at the pump has – for now – gone down from $4 a gallon. To control our own destiny, America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it. This is not a challenge for government alone – it is a challenge for all of us. The pursuit of a new energy economy requires a sustained, all-hands-on-deck effort because the foundation of our energy independence is right here, in America – in the power of wind and solar; in new crops and new technologies; in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs, and the dedication and skill of our workforce. Those are the resources we must harness to move beyond our oil addiction and create a new, hybrid economy.

As we face this challenge, we can seize boundless opportunities for our people. We can create millions of jobs, starting with a 21st Century Economic Recovery Plan that puts Americans to work building wind farms, solar panels, and fuel-efficient cars. We can spark the dynamism of our economy through long term investments in renewable energy that will give life to new businesses and industries, with good jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. We will make public buildings more efficient, modernize our electric grid, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect and preserve our natural resources.

We must also recognize that the solution to global climate change must be global. I spoke a few days ago with Senator John Kerry, who updated me on the recent climate negotiations in Poland. Just as we work to reduce our own emissions, we must forge international solutions to ensure that every nation is doing its part. As we do so, America will lead not just at the negotiating table – we will lead, as we always have, through innovation and discovery; through hard work and the pursuit of a common purpose.

The team that I have assembled here today is uniquely suited to meet the great challenges of this defining moment. They are leading experts and accomplished managers, and they are ready to reform government and help transform our economy so that our people are more prosperous, our nation is more secure, and our planet is protected.

Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has been working at the cutting edge of our nation’s effort to develop new and cleaner forms of energy. He blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. Steven is uniquely-suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission. The scientists at our national labs will have a distinguished peer at the helm. His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.

For my Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I have chosen Lisa Jackson. Lisa has spent a lifetime in public service at the local, state and federal level. As Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, she has helped make her state a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing new sources of energy, and she has the talent and experience to continue this effort at the EPA. Lisa also shares my commitment to restoring the EPA’s robust role in protecting our air, water and abundant natural resources so that our environment is cleaner and our communities are safer.

Nancy Sutley will be an integral part of this team as the Chair of my Council on Environmental Quality in the White House. In recent years, we have seen states and cities take the initiative in forging innovative solutions on energy. Nancy has been at the cutting edge of this effort – working as a Regional Administrator for the EPA, at the state level in Sacramento, and recently as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and the Environment in Los Angeles. Now, she will bring this unique experience to Washington, and be a key player in helping to make our government more efficient, and coordinating our efforts to protect our environment at home and around the globe.

Finally, the scope of the effort before us will demand coordination across the government, and my personal engagement as President. That is why I’m naming Carol Browner to a new post in the White House to coordinate energy and climate policy. Carol understands that our efforts to create jobs, achieve energy security and combat climate change demand integration among different agencies; cooperation between federal, state and local governments; and partnership with the private sector. She brings the unmatched experience of being a successful and longest-serving Administrator of the EPA. She will be indispensable in implementing an ambitious and complex energy policy.

Later this week, I will be announcing my designee for Secretary of the Interior, which will fill out my energy and environmental team. The Interior Department will play a critical role in meeting the challenges that I have discussed today.

Looking ahead, I am confident that we will be ready to begin the journey towards a new energy frontier on January 20th. This will be a leading priority of my presidency, and a defining test of our time. We cannot afford complacency, nor accept any more broken promises. We won’t create a new energy economy and protect our environment overnight, but we can begin that work right now if we think anew, and act anew. Now, we must have the will to act, and to act boldly.

Thank you.

Corzine: Lisa Jackson 'Has Done a Remarkable Job' in a 'Constrained World'

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 09 Dec 2008 16:34:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama’s co-chair of his energy and natural resources transition team, has emerged as the top candidate to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson, a 46-year-old African American engineer, left her job as administrator of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to become Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff on December 1. Jackson has a mixed record at the New Jersey DEP, earning praise for her work ethic but criticism for difficulties achieving the department’s mission.

In an exclusive interview with the ThinkProgress Wonk Room, Gov. Corzine says Jackson has been “remarkably successful” despite a limited budget and competing state priorities:

Lisa Jackson is, without question in my mind, someone who has overwhelmingly been successful as an environmentalist, but also she has also been a person who understands that we have to move in a disciplined thoughtful manner. We can’t do everything at once. . . I think Lisa has done a remarkable job of trying to move the environmental agenda forward within a constrained world.
Watch it:

Corzine’s view is shared by local environmentalists like the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions’ Sandy Batty, and Environment New Jersey’s Dena Mottola Jaborska, who told Environment and Energy News that Jackson is “a skilled administrator who’s willing to listen” and the “best DEP commissioner that New Jersey had for a long time.” Jackson’s agency “has suffered from a slate of budget cuts by Democratic and Republican governors alike, and thousands of staff positions have been lost over the years.” Struggling to reduce a multi-billion-dollar state debt, Corzine himself has slashed the DEP budget even as the department’s responsibilities have expanded to handle global warming.

The list of problems at the underfunded agency is long. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has been the most critical of Jackson’s potential appointment, claiming “Jackson embraced policies at DEP echoing the very practices at the Bush EPA which Senator Barack Obama condemned during the presidential campaign,” including “suppression of scientific information, issuance of gag orders,” and “closed-door deal-making with regulated industry executives and lobbyists.” PEER’s Jeff Ruch describes Jackson as “a pliant technocrat who will follow orders”:
While Ms. Jackson has a compelling biography, little of what occurred during her 31-month tenure commends her for promotion. Under her watch, New Jersey’s environment only got dirtier, incredible as that may seem.

PEER, which exposed many of the EPA’s worst practices under Stephen Johnson, notes that “Jackson appointed the lobbyist for the New Jersey Builders Association as her Assistant Commissioner to oversee critical water quality and land use permits,” and “failed to warn parents or workers for months about mercury contamination” at a day-care center in a former thermometer factory.


CORZINE: Lisa Jackson is, without question in my mind, someone who has overwhelmingly been successful as an environmentalist, but also she has also been a person who understands that we have to move in a disciplined thoughtful manner. We can’t do everything at once.

We have the most Superfund sites in America in New Jersey. And we are cleaning them up within the financial capacity of what we have the resources to do. And we need help from the federal government on that.

Having Lisa here, who is absolutely committed to the kind of cleanup that some of her critics would say she should have done more of . . . Those individuals I think some times are not putting it in the context of health care, or education, or other difficult but important responsibilities that government has to take on. I think Lisa has done a remarkable job of trying to move the environmental agenda forward within a constrained world.

Duke Carolina Coal Plant Blocked By Federal Court

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 02 Dec 2008 22:37:00 GMT

The permits for a 800-megawatt, $2.4 billion Duke Energy Cliffside coal-fired power plant granted by the North Carolina Department of Air Quality in February have been struck down by a federal court. This case in part stems from a 2005 decision by the Bush administration EPA to remove these kinds of plants from the hazardous air pollutant provisions of the Clean Air Act. Shortly after the permits were granted, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals found that the 2005 EPA decision was illegal, and environmental groups used that ruling to challenge the Cliffside project. Duke’s argument was that the permit was granted before the circuit court decision, and should stand.

Lacy Thornburg, for the Western North Carolina District Court, found that the DAQ permit failed to comply with the Clean Air Act, notwithstanding EPA’s illegal maneuvers. Thornburg determined that the permitting process ignored critical provisions of the Clean Air Act, and that “Duke is simply refusing to comply with controlling law.”

The Cliffside plant “has the potential to emit in excess of ten tons per year” of hydrochloric acid and “over 25 tons of a combination of” other hazardous air pollutants. Section 112 of the Clean Air Act governs the federal control program for hazardous air pollutants.

Thornburg’s judgment found that the facts of the case were simple:
As of this date, neither the EPA or DAQ (North Carolina’s authority delegated with enforcing § 112) has issued to Duke an Air Quality Permit recognizing compliance with § 112. The material facts herein are not in dispute. Duke is simply refusing to comply with controlling law.

The Cliffside expansion project was launched in June 2006.

White House Organizes Mayors Against EPA Global Warming Regulations

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 26 Nov 2008 23:56:00 GMT

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:

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:

Please let us know if you have any questions.


Jeremy J. Broggi
Associate Director
Intergovernmental Affairs
The White House

EPA Appeals Board Strikes Down Construction Of New Coal-Fired Power Plant

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 14 Nov 2008 13:30:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Power PlantYesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board ruled today that the EPA has no valid reason for refusing to place limits on the global warming emissions from Desert Power’s proposed 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Vernal, Utah.

Deseret Power’s Bonanza Generating Station would have emitted 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. In July 2007, the EPA issued a permit for the plant, ignoring the Clean Air Act’s stipulation that all such permits must include a “best-available control technology” emissions limit for each pollutant “subject to regulation under the Act.” Before the Sierra Club brought suit, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform opened an investigation into the EPA’s decision, saying:
It is reckless to approve a huge coal-fired power plant with no global warming emission controls. This one massive plant will negate the emissions reductions being implemented by the Northeastern states in the first mandatory regional program to cut global warming pollution. The Administration’s shameful decision rewards polluters, flouts the Clean Air Act, and fails the American people.
Joanna Spalding, the Sierra Club attorney who successfully argued the case, delivered this statement:
Today’s decision opens the way for meaningful action to fight global warming and is a major step in bringing about a clean energy economy. This is one more sign that we must begin repowering, refueling and rebuilding America. The EAB rejected every Bush Administration excuse for failing to regulate the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. This decision gives the Obama Administration a clean slate to begin building our clean energy economy for the 21st century.

The 69-page decision described the Bush administration’s arguments as “weak,” “questionable,” “not sustainable,” and “not sufficient,” and rebuked EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson for failing to issue CO2 regulations, repeatedly recommending an “action of nationwide scope.”

Bush Administration Rushing Through Lame-Duck Energy And Environment Actions

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 31 Oct 2008 21:02:00 GMT

The House Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence has issued a report, Past is Prologue, listing many of the energy and environmental regulations, rulemakings, and notices the Bush administration is expected to issue (or in some cases, illegally avoid issuing) in its final months in office. As R. Jeffrey Smith writes in the Washington Post, “The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo.” Here’s a partial list:
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to finalize an NSR rule before the end of the administration that would essentially exempt all existing power plants from having to install new pollution control technology when these plants are updated.
  • In a separate NSR rule, EPA plans to exempt so-called “fugitive” emissions – meaning emissions that don’t come out of the end of a stack such as volatile organic compounds emitted from leaking pipes and fittings at petroleum refineries – from consideration in determining whether NSR is triggered.
  • EPA is also set to finalize a third rule weakening the NSR program, by allowing so-called “batch process facilities” – like oil refineries and chemical plants – to artificially ignore certain emissions when determining when NSR is triggered.
  • EPA is also working towards weakening air pollution regulations on power plants and other emissions sources adjacent to national parks and other pristine, so-called “Class I” areas. By changing the modeling of new power plants’ impact on air quality in national parks – using annual emissions averages as opposed to shorter daily or monthly periods – the EPA rule will make it easier for such plants to be built close to parks.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued proposed regulations to implement the EISA fuel economy standards (increase by the maximum feasible amount each year, such that it reaches at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020) in April 2008, and final regulations are expected soon. If NHTSA used EIA’s higher gasoline price scenario—a range of $3.14/gallon in 2016 to $3.74/gallon in 2030—the technology is available to cost-effectively achieve a much higher fleet wide fuel economy of nearly 35 mpg in 2015 – instead of the 31.6 mpg in 2015 under the lower gas prices used in NHTSA’s proposed rule.
  • EPA is expected to issue proposed regulations soon on the renewable fuels provisions passed in EISA that required America’s fuel supply to include 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 – together with more specific volumetric requirements and lifecycle greenhouse gas benchmarks for “advanced” renewable fuels, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) has already telegraphed its intention to gut the Endangered Species Act by rushing through 300,000 comments on proposed rules in 32 hours, then providing a mere 10-day public comment period on the Environmental Assessment of the proposed rules change. The proposed rules would take expert scientific review out of many Endangered Species Act (ESA) processes, and could exempt the effects of global warming pollution on threatened or endangered species.
  • DOI intends to finalize new regulations governing commercial development of oil shale on more than 2 million acres of public lands in the West.
  • DOI’s Office of Surface Mining is expected before the end of the administration to issue a final rule that would extend the current rule (which requires a 100-foot buffer zone around streams to protect them from mining practices) so that it also applies to all other bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds and wetlands. But the rule would also exempt many harmful practices – such as permanent coal waste disposal facilities – and could even allow for changing a waterway’s flow.
  • EPA has already missed several deadlines to finalize a rule addressing whether concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are required to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act.
  • EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers may issue a revised guidance memo on how to interpret the phrase “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act, which determines what water bodies are subject to regulation under the Act.
  • Under the Omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2008, EPA was directed to establish a mandatory reporting rule for greenhouse gas emissions, using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act, by September 2008. EPA has been working on a proposed rule, which may or may not be issued before the end of the Bush administration. EPA will not issue a final rule before the end of the administration.

'Carbon Ultimatum' Is Just Respect For The Law

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 20 Oct 2008 23:29:00 GMT

By Robert M. Sussman, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, for the Wonk Room.

smoke_stacks.PNGThe Wall Street Journal’s opinion piece, The Carbon Ultimatum, accuses Barack Obama of planning to unleash the bureaucracy of the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to “bludgeon” Congress into enacting climate change legislation:

He plans to issue an ultimatum to Congress: Either impose new taxes and limits on carbon that he finds amenable, or the EPA carbon police will be let loose to ravage the countryside.

To support this charge, the Journal points to recent comments by Jason Grumet, an Obama energy advisor: “The EPA is obligated to move forward in the absence of Congressional action. If there’s no action by Congress in those 18 months, I think any responsible president would want to have the regulatory approach.’‘

This opinion piece, which uses the time-honored ploy of opponents of environmental progress of demonizing the EPA and ascribing sinister motives to its political overseers, has two fatal flaws. One, the specter of bureaucrats running amok and strangling the economy – by intruding into small businesses and individual households and banning fuels on which millions of Americans depend – is a fantasy of die-hard free-market zealots. 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.

Second, in its zeal to accuse the EPA workforce of a naked power grab, the Journal ignores the central reason why EPA is part of the climate equation, as even the conservative law professor Jonathan Adler recognizes:
The problem with the WSJ’s narrative is that Grumet is describing nothing more than what is legally required as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. Under that decision, the EPA is effectively obligated to begin the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. If the law is not amended, and the next Administration fails to act, environmentalist groups will file suit to force their hand – and win.

The Court’s decision came after years of evading climate change by the Bush Administration despite the mounting evidence of rising temperatures and their consequences for our ecosystems and economy. Unfortunately, the EPA remains in default on its fundamental legal responsibilities. EPA’s July Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – which the Journal describes as as a “roadmap” for blanketing the US economy with onerous regulation – was in fact a further Bush delay. Instead of a scientific “endangerment” analysis, the White House directed EPA to prepare a neutral and non-committal discussion of its legal authority – a stick in the eye of the Supreme Court. They then went further by taking the unprecedented step of belittling and disowning EPA’s technical and legal analysis to score points with its allies in industry and the Republican base.

If anything, allowing EPA to move ahead under the Clean Air Act would be “non-political” because it would honor the terms of a Supreme Court ruling that the outgoing Administration has chosen to defy. How simple respect for the nation’s highest court and the law of the land equates to issuing an “ultimatum” to Congress is baffling.

EPA Climate Career Staff Call Administrator's Actions 'Unprofessional,' 'Unprecedented,' 'Damaging'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Aug 2008 21:37:00 GMT

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.

States and Environmental Groups to Sue EPA to Get Emissions Rules

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 01 Aug 2008 11:20:00 GMT

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.”

In the last year, states have also sued the EPA for dragging its heels in regulating carbon dioxide and for having lax smog standards.

This week, lawmakers called on EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to resign because he has become “a secretive and dangerous ally of polluters.”

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