Friday, July 11, 2008

Some thoughts on EPA's "advanced notice" on climate

Today’s “advanced notice” reflects the heavy hand of the White House. Indeed, the head of the EPA -- Steve Johnson -- essentially disavowed his own agency's work! He is without a doubt the worst administrator of EPA in history. He is a creature of the White House, pure and simple. More on that below.

This plan doesn’t pass the smell test. It doesn’t even pass the laugh test. (Check the ludicrously low projections for oil prices if you don’t believe me!) This is nothing but an exercise in stall tactics. And it appears to be an effort to try slowing down cleanup efforts by a future administration more interested in environmental protection. Let's hope they toss this business into the circular file and actually do something.

The White House has turned EPA’s preliminary judgment on its head: as AP writer Dina Cappiello noted, EPA’s staff initially carved out a road map to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The White House has turned this into a road map to nowhere.

In theory, this advanced notice is supposed to alert affected businesses that future regulation is coming. And it was supposed to raise questions towards that end.

But EPA Administrator Steve Johnson has obviously prejudged the issue. He declared the Clean Air Act is the “wrong tool” to deal with this issue. He has passed the buck to Congress after the recent Lieberman-Warner debacle made it clear that it’s going to be very tough for Congress to come to an agreement.

And there are real procedural irregularities here: EPA has put the comments of other agencies – those obviously less interested in reducing global warming emissions – into this advanced notice. These are comments from the Office of Management and Budget and cabinet agencies that promote industry and agriculture -- all of them opposed to greenhouse gas limits. I believe that is unprecedented for EPA to showcase the views of other agencies in this manner, in effect Steve Johnson's effort to discredit his own staff! . And as our esteemed colleague, Vickie Patton of Environmental Defense Fund notes, "The senior EPA staff long involved in the development of the ANPR never saw the White House denunciations that Johnson put forward to justify his own utter failure to address the global warming crisis. Indeed, they are all dated within the last 2 days."

And this stands in stark contrast to how the Bush administration handled the recent proposal by the Transportation Department on fuel economy. In that case, EPA had more than 100 pages of comments to the plan. But EPA’s views were sent to the circular file.

So the Bush administration is happy to use this new process when it’s convenient – and when it’s used to block tougher environmental controls.

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