Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The White House has refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, and has told EPA officials that the email they sent containing the document of their findings would not be opened, reports The New York Times. Apparently the email in question has been hanging in limbo since December 2007, according to EPA officials.

The document details the EPA’s proposed response to the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and the environment, and the EPA has a responsibility to regulate them. Apparently, the White House has decided if they don’t open the email, they don’t have to abide by the suggestions of experts.

According to those who have accessed early drafts of the EPA’s endangerment findings, the original conclusion was that the country could raise automobile fuel efficiency standards to 37.7 miles per gallon by 2018 without significant economic hardship. EPA officials, speaking under the condition of anonymity to the Times, said that over the past week the White House has put pressure on the agency to eliminate large sections of their analysis that support stronger regulation, including their finding that regulation of automobile emissions could actually produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years.

The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on regulating auto emissions is expected as early as today. As we’ve reported previously, documents that Congress has secured related to the case suggest that the White House intends to undermine the EPA’s recommendations in the ANPR. EPA officials say that the ANPR out of the White House will be a watered-down version of their recommendations that looks at the legal and economic concerns related to declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant.

The original proposal from EPA experts “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one senior official told the Times. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

As we’ve seen previously with the smog decision and the California waiver, Johnson has a history of ignoring the recommendations of staff experts in order to appease the White House. The Times notes that one EPA official has already resigned over the apparent politicization in the agency when it comes to regulating emissions. Jason Burnett, the associate deputy administrator, told the Times he resigned because “no more constructive work could be done” there in response to the Supreme Court decision.

As we’ve reported previously, House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming Chair Ed Markey sent a letter to Bush yesterday urging him to abide by the recommendations of the EPA. And on Friday, the White House intervened to block the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s subpoena of documents related to the White House’s role in decision-making on related issues at the EPA, claiming executive privilege.