Petulant White House Refuses to Open EPA Email Because Bush Administration Didn’t Like What It Said

White House to EPA: LA, LA, LA, LA - I Don't Hear You!!Now there’s leadership for ‘ya…

In April 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection agency has the authority and obligation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as pollutants that contribute to climate change. The ruling also made clear that the EPA could not shrink from this responsibility unless it provides a scientific bases for doing so.

In December 2007, in apparent compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling, the EPA emailed a draft report to the White House that, according to an EPA official, concluded that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare and should be controlled. The White House refused to open the email and several EPA officials have said the Bush Administration asked for the email to be recalled. It wasn’t. And so the email sat, ignored.

The report also stated that, based on data from the Energy Department, it would be cost effective to set CAFE fuel efficiency standards to 37.7 MPG by 2018. Ten days after the email was sent and left unopened (with no further attempts from anyone to otherwise deliver the information and suggest someone in the Bush White House at least read it), the president signed into law an energy bill requiring CAFE standards at 35 MPG by 2020, less rigorous than the EPA’s ignored recommendation.

This, in conjunction with the EPA/White House fiasco over refusal to comply with numerous subpoenas related to White House influence over EPA administrator Steven Johnson’s decision to deny California’s waiver to set tailpipe emission standards, has drawn increased attention to the EPA’s failure to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

Despite the failure of the White House to read its email, it apparently knows (of course) what the EPA concluded over six months ago. This past week the White House has successfully pressured the EPA to cut large swaths from the original report, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2trillion in economic benefits to the American economy.

A senior EPA official said the original EPA findings

…showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy to reduce greenhouse gases. That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

White House spokesman Tony Fratto refused comment on discussions between the Bush administration and the EPA – why bother? The EPA has now obviously become the tool of George Bush instead of the an agency in honest pursuit of its mandate to protect the environment.

The ongoing charade of leadership from the White House and EPA administrator Johnson has led to the resignation of Jason Burnett, the EPA associate deputy administrator who had broad authority over climate change regulations. Said Mr. Burnett of his decision to resign:

…no more constructive work could be done on the agency’s response to the Supreme Court. The next administration will have to face what this one did not.”

In fact, we all must face the consequences of what this administration has done, and not done, for and to the American people.

As David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, says:

All this does is further underscore that the Bush administration has not done anything, will not do anything, and has stood in the way of anyone else doing anything.”

Sources and Further Reading
New York Times – Dot Earth
US Climate Change Program
Associated Press
The Telegram





Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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