The White House’s Agents Of Environmental Corruption

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is an obscure Cabinet-level office that oversees the activities of all the federal agencies of the Executive Branch. Under President Bush, the OMB has become administration’s primary mechanism for politicizing the work of the Environmental Protection Agency, as congressional investigations have discovered.

Bush’s political appointees to the OMB and EPA share personal ties and a common right-wing ideology of defending corporate polluters against environmental regulation. The individuals listed below joined the administration directly from anti-regulatory think tanks or from the staff of Republican congressmen.

Yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) held an oversight hearing into OMB interference with EPA decisions on ozone and greenhouse gases, at which EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson yet again put in a performance that “rivals Alberto Gonzales” and failed to turn over subpoenaed documents. Today, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) held an oversight hearing into OMB interference with the EPA risk assessment process for toxic chemicals. Tomorrow, the House Global Warming Committee will hold a vote to recommend that Johnson be found in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with their subpoena.

Here are a few of the major figures linking the OMB to the EPA:

John D. Graham

Former Administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

John Graham
John D. Graham

BACKGROUND: Administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) from 2001 to 2006. Called “the man behind the curtain” by OMB Watch, Graham “made his anti-regulatory agenda clear upon entering office.” In 1990, Graham founded the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, an industry-funded think tank that fights environmental regulation. Graham is now the dean of the RAND Graduate School, the military think tank’s private school. His protegés — Marcus Peacock and George Gray — now hold top positions in the EPA.

Marcus C. Peacock

EPA Deputy Administrator and Regulatory Policy Officer

Marcus Peacock
Marcus C. Peacock

BACKGROUND: Peacock is the number-two official at the EPA. As his EPA biography states, “From 2001 until August 2005, Mr. Peacock served as an Associate Director at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB)” under John Graham. While at OMB, Peacock created the Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART), a complex assessment system by which the OMB exerts authority over every action of Executive Branch agencies. Peacock is the EPA’s “regulatory policy officer,” a position created in January 2007 by executive order to be the liaison between EPA and OIRA for regulatory reviews and discussions. Peacock served in the OMB during the first Bush administration during the 1980s, and was top staffer for Bud Shuster (R-PA) in the Transportation Committee before joining the current administration. “Graham henchman” Peacock appears to have been involved in the firing of Region V Administrator Mary Gade over a dispute with Dow Chemical.

Dr. George Gray

EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development

George Gray
Dr. George Gray

BACKGROUND: Gray was appointed to the position by President Bush in 2005. Before then, Gray ran the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, founded by John Graham. As the top scientist in the EPA, Gray is involved in the politicization of EPA’s regulation of toxic chemicals, including the IRIS risk-assessment program. In a congressional oversight hearing, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) said of Gray’s changes to the system, “It effectively kills IRIS without honestly acknowledging that purpose.”

Susan E. Dudley

Administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Susan Dudley
Susan E. Dudley

BACKGROUND: John Graham’s successor, Dudley is the first OIRA administrator not to be confirmed by the Senate (she was a recess appointment in 2007). From 2003 until 2006, Dudley ran the Regulatory Studies Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Like the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Mercatus is a think tank that fights environmental regulation, founded in the late 1970s by the right-wing energy company Koch Industries. Dudley wrote the March 13 letter informing EPA Administrator Johnson that President Bush personally decided to override his recommendations for ozone standards. Dudley’s husband, Brian Mannix, runs the EPA Office of Policy.

Brian F. Mannix

EPA Associate Administrator for the Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation

BACKGROUND: Mannix is Susan Dudley’s husband. As head of the EPA Office of Policy, he oversees all agency regulatory activity. Before Dudley joined the OMB, Mannix was also the EPA Regulatory Policy Officer, the official liaison between the EPA and OIRA. According to Inside EPA, he was replaced by Peacock to avoid “the appearance of a lack of impartiality.” Mannix had worked with Dudley as a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center. At the EPA, Mannix has been a prime advocate of using the value of a statistical life year method — also known as the “senior death discount” — to place less value on the lives of elderly people in calculating the health benefits of reducing pollution.

Christopher P. Bliley

EPA Associate Administrator for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations

BACKGROUND: From 2002 to 2007, Bliley was a top staffer for Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA). In 2007, Nussle was appointed to run the OMB, and Bliley moved to the EPA. In his position, Bliley has been in charge of responding to congressional subpoenas for documents on White House involvement with EPA decisionmaking. Instead of complying with the subpoenas, Bliley has written letters demanding that Congress turn over documents to the EPA and claiming compliance would “be injurious to important Executive Branch prerogatives.”

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