Watchdog bows to Bush pressure
Associated Press in Washington – Updated on Jul 13, 2008
The administration of US President George W. Bush, dismissing the recommendations of its experts, has rejected regulating the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, saying it would cripple the US economy.
In a 588-page notice, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made no finding on whether global warming posed a threat to people’s health or welfare, reversing an earlier conclusion at the insistence of the White House.
The White House on Thursday rejected the EPA’s suggestion three weeks earlier that the 1970 Clean Air Act could be effective for addressing climate change. The EPA said on Friday that the law was ill-suited for dealing with global warming.
“If our nation is truly serious about regulating greenhouse gases, the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool for the job,” EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said. “It is really at the feet of Congress.”
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Mr Bush was committed to further reductions, but that there was a “right way and a wrong way to deal with climate change”.
The wrong way was “to sharply increase gasoline prices, home heating bills and the cost of energy for American businesses”, she said. “The right way, as the president has proposed, is to invest in new technologies.”
At the just-concluded Group of Eight summit in Japan, Mr Bush and other world leaders called for a voluntary 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases worldwide by 2050, but offered no specifics on how to reach that goal. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the government had the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant, but Mr Bush has opposed doing that.
Congress has not found the will to do much about the problem, either. Supporters of regulating greenhouse gases managed to get only 48 votes in the 100-member Senate last month. The House of Representatives has held several hearings on the problem but no votes on any bill addressing it. Both major presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, have endorsed variations of the approach rejected by the Senate.
In its document, the EPA laid out a buffet of options on how to reduce greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and factories. On Friday Mr Johnson called the proposals drafted by his staff “putting a square peg into a round hole” and said moving forward would be irresponsible.
“One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land,” Mr Johnson wrote.
Attorneys general from several states called the administration’s findings inadequate.
“The time has long passed for open-ended pondering – what we need now is action,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, which initiated the Supreme Court case.
The EPA said it had encountered resistance from the agriculture, commerce, energy and transport departments, as well as the White House, which made it “impossible” to respond in a timely fashion to the Supreme Court decision.
Friday’s action caps months of often tense negotiations between EPA scientists and the White House over how to address global warming. They ended with the White House citing “extraordinary circumstances” and refusing to review the draft forwarded last month by EPA scientists.
The latest document is much more cautious than a determination made in December by the agency, which found greenhouse gases endangered public welfare. It also appears to counteract the findings of drafts released in May and last month, which found the Clean Air Act could be an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gases.