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Frank O'Donnell's Posts

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Hot, noxious air from Bush administration

The EPA’s phony explanation of its rejection of California

After more than two months, the Bush administration today finally articulated its legal case for rejecting California's greenhouse-gas standards for motor vehicles. The argument is here. It reads like something written up in the boardroom of General Motors or a law firm working for car companies. It even cites arguments made by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers as justification for the decision! It's a phony argument designed to protect the auto industry -- and it's typical of the Bush administration to dump out bad news like this on a Friday to minimize media coverage. Johnson contends that California's problem with …

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Flat earth firsters?

A celebration of hot air on Broadway

No, you couldn't make this one up. It's a meeting, starting Sunday, of hundreds of "scientists" and propagandists, convening to denounce the proposition that global warming is real. It's like a gathering of the Flat Earth Society. Or, since this meeting literally is taking place on Broadway, it recalls the great Preston Jones play, The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia, which did run briefly on Broadway. The meeting is under the aegis of the Heartland Institute, a corporate-funded outfit which, among other things, funnels "free-enterprise" propaganda to malleable state lawmakers. Many of the organizing sponsors and …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Smog struggle

A view behind the scenes at the EPA and the White House

It is now less than four weeks until the EPA announces its decision on whether to change current national standards for ozone or smog. And things are getting very interesting behind the scenes. Officially, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget website, the EPA has not yet transmitted its plan to the White House for review. The truth is, the EPA is obviously being picked at by the OMB already. The Bush administration is just trying to keep the details of this matter as secret as possible. (Some business lobbyists have heard that the EPA is pushing …

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Smoked

Federal appeals court strikes down pro-industry Bush mercury rule

As Grist readers know, today a federal judge struck down the EPA's controversial mercury cap-and-trade system. The decision (PDF) is just the latest in a series of successful court challenges to pro-industry Bush environmental rules. This did not come as a shock. It has been commonly assumed in D.C. that the Bush administration's attempt to pretend that mercury is not toxic when it comes out of a power plant smokestack would be judged illegal. Despite this decision, however, mercury cleanup will continue to languish, because the Bush crowd will continue foot dragging. Their gambit bought the industry an extra five …

Read more: Politics

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Biofuels bombshell

Researchers find corn ethanol, switchgrass could worsen global warming

Some very respected researchers today have lobbed a real bombshell into the energy public policy world: they have concluded that ethanol produced both by corn and switchgrass could worsen global warming. In other words, Congress really blew it last year when it mandated a massive increase in biofuels (an action coated with green language but really an effort by both political parties to cater to farm states). This is also a slap at President Bush's effort to paint himself as something other than an oil man. The new findings, led by separate teams from Princeton University and the University of …

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Bush blinks -- at least a little

Waxman wins a round in battle over EPA car scandal

Score one round this morning for Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Waxman's panel is among those investigating the Bush administration's decision -- contrary to EPA staff advice -- to reject California's greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles. He wants to interview seven key EPA staffers without the presence of government lawyers, who would be expected to interfere with the questioning. The Bush administration has been balking at this request, so Waxman was preparing to ask his committee to vote today to issue subpoenas. But the Bush administration blinked -- at least a little. Waxman …

Read more: Politics

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Words of wisdom from the CAFE champ

How we can make progress with climate change mitigation

There's a great deal of buzz in D.C. right now over the prospects of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill. A major environmental group (Environmental Defense) is running radio spots urging congressional passage this year, while a key Lieberman aide has been quoted as saying that the already compromised bill is open for further compromise (if that will get more votes). One issue up for discussion is preemption -- that is, taking away the right of states to limit greenhouse gases. With that in mind, it might make sense to consider the views of a genuine eco-battler, my friend Dan Becker, long …

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Peeling away the covers

Boxer releases notes on secret EPA material

This just in: Sen. Barbara Boxer today released notes her staff took on some of the materials the Bush administration has tried to suppress regarding the decision to reject California's effort to enforce its greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles. These documents back up published reports that EPA chief Steve Johnson rejected the advice of his staff. More here.

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Testing the limits of coverup and privilege

More shenanigans from the EPA on the Cali waiver

Thurday will be an interesting test of the ability of Congress to crack a Bush administration coverup of a rotten and likely illegal action: its decision to reject California's effort to enforce its greenhouse-gas standards for motor vehicles. Sen. Barbara Boxer will put EPA Administrator Steve Johnson in the box to explore not only his indefensible decision, but his efforts to withhold information from Congress and cover up the truth about his pro-car company action. You will recall that right before Christmas, Johnson nixed the California request in a hastily called news conference where he tried, dishonestly, to spin his …