After over a year of battles with the White House and other federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency has published its response to the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which mandated that the agency determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to our health and welfare and take action in response. With today’s publication of an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson ignores the threat and attacks the rule of law.
Johnson published his staff’s document — after extensive cuts from the White House — with complaints attached from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy.
In one voice, the other agencies attack the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as “deeply flawed and unsuitable,” “fundamentally ill-suited,” “extraordinarily intrusive and burdensome,” “unilateral and extraordinarily burdensome,” “drastic,” “dramatic,” “excessive,” “extremely expensive,” and “costly and burdensome.” The clear and present threat of global warming is dismissed as a “complex” issue that hinges on “interpretation of statutory terms.”
Sadly, Johnson decided to join them, attacking the immense work done by his staff to address the catastrophic threat of climate change:
I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act, an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects, is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.
In his press conference announcing the release of today’s decision, Johnson reiterated his opinion that the Clean Air Act is the “wrong tool” for the task, “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”
This is yet another case where Johnson is following the example of the likes of disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who made similar statements about the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture as White House Counsel:
As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.
Similarly, the White House’s arguments in defense of ignoring the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s ban on warrantless wiretapping:
Reverting to the outdated FISA statute risks our national security. FISA’s outdated provisions created dangerous intelligence gaps, which is why Congress passed the Protect America Act in the first place.
George W. Bush, Stephen Johnson, and the other officers of the executive branch swore an oath to “faithfully execute” their office and defend the Constitution. They have evidently decided to break that vow, time and again. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Bush administration, it’s always the “quaint,” “outdated,” “burdensome,” and “ill-suited” laws that are the problem — never their reckless abandonment of principle and duty.
UPDATE: At Solve Climate, David Sassoon offers his take on Stephen Johnson:
The tragedy of a small person, ill-suited to this historical moment, unable to rise to the occasion, doing the bidding of the self-proclaimed “world’s biggest polluter.”
UPDATE II: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): “We cannot afford an Environmental Protection Agency that does not protect the environment. If Administrator Johnson cannot lead this great agency in the manner the American people deserve to see it led, he should step down and let someone else try.”
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA): “On global warming, the White House uses the slash-and-burn technique. They slash any meaningful statements or action on global warming, and allow the planet to burn.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): “This means that the Clean Air Act, signed by Richard Nixon and carried out by every President since, has been shredded by President Bush, who will go down in history as the first president to so gravely endanger the health and safety of the American people.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK): “If Congress does not act, then the resulting regulations could be the largest regulatory intrusion into Americans personal lives, a nightmare scenario. Big brother is alive and well in the career ranks at the EPA.”
Go to the US Climate Action Network for collected responses from member organizations.