Climate Obstructionist Nominated For Federal Judiciary 1

Posted by Warming Law Tue, 29 Jul 2008 14:34:00 GMT

Last Tuesday, EPA whistleblower Jason Burnett testified before a Senate committee about the Bush administration’s efforts to influence EPA’s decision-making process in 2007—interference that ended with Administrator Stephen Johnson being ordered, contrary to the Clean Air Act, to delay regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and block California’s landmark efforts to fight global warming. Burnett’s most noteworthy new revelations came through several detailed anecdotes of White House interference. One of the most laughable, as related by the Washington Independent:
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.

CA Waiver Lawsuit Transferred to DC Circuit 5

Posted by Warming Law Sat, 26 Jul 2008 21:21:00 GMT

In a terse, two-page order issued yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the EPA’s motion to reconsider its earlier denial of a motion to dismiss California’s waiver-denial lawsuit. A three-judge panel agreed that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s December, 19 2007 letter to CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger—which was the basis for the January 2008 lawsuit—does not constitute a reviewable “final action” under the Clean Air Act.

The court’s decision means that the case will now move to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and will be based on the 47-page denial document that EPA placed in the Federal Register this February (complete with its utterly contradictory logic). Unless the DC Circuit sets an aggressive briefing schedule, the case may end up not being argued by year’s end—in which case, the petition would hopefully become moot as the result of a new President overturning the waiver decision.

House Republicans Ask Waxman to Investigate EPA (Staff) 3

Posted by Warming Law Wed, 09 Apr 2008 16:14:00 GMT

The WSJ’s Dana Mattioli reported yesterday afternoon on the latest development in congressional oversight of the EPA’s California waiver decision:

In a letter today, two senior Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the panel’s chairman, Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), to investigate whether top EPA staffers either violated federal rules that restrict regulators from lobbying, or “misused their positions to surreptitiously influence” EPA’s decision on whether to allow California to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicles.

Reps. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) are mad at Margo Oge and Christopher Grundler, the senior EPA officials tasked with evaluating California’s waiver request and (unsuccessfully) telling Administrator Stephen Johnson that he had no choice but to grant it. Congressional oversight of that decision revealed that the pair subsequently provided former EPA Administrator William Reilly—at Reilly’s request—talking points with which to argue the waiver’s merits to Johnson.

Davis and Issa argue that this deserves the same level of scrutiny that Waxman devoted to a surreptitious plan to lobby Congress and governors against the waiver—Johnson may have also been a target, but he could not recall whether that was the case—deployed last summer by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, White House officials, and industry lobbyists.

This actually isn’t the first time that congressional Republicans have gone after Oge and Grundler. During a hearing that followed the revelation of the Reilly memo and other EPA documents, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) asked Administrator Johnson whether his employees had violated the Hatch Act. Johnson defended their actions, saying that he has "always encouraged my staff to give me candid and open advice" (he just reserves the right to ignore it, even when phrased as a clear mandate and not simply advice, and the resulting fallout severely alienates staff unions).

Rep. Waxman responded to the letter by pledging to give it "careful consideration," while noting that the Committee had "found no evidence that EPA career staff lobbied members of Congress with respect to [California’s request]" (translation: the Davis-Issa analogy to his previous investigation is bunk). For his part, Reilly, who ran EPA under the first President Bush and granted California several waivers, has said that his communications with career staff who served under him were not unprecedented, let alone improper or illegal.