EPA, Interior Dept. chiefs will be busy cleaning up Bush’s crap

herc5.jpgThe Washington Post has a good piece on the Herculean effort the new heads of the EPA and Interior Department will face in dealing with the mess the Bushies made. This mess is comparable to the one Hercules cleaned up in his fifth labor when he diverted an entire river to clean up the Augean Stables.

The article also includes the long list of the names that have been floated so far for both agencies

Few federal agencies are expected to undergo as radical a transformation under President-elect Barack Obama as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, which have been at the epicenter of many of the Bush administration’s most intense scientific and environmental controversies.

The agencies have different mandates — the EPA holds sway over air and water pollution, while Interior administers the nation’s vast federal land holdings as well as the Endangered Species Act — but both deal with some of the country’s most pressing environmental concerns, such as climate change. And over the past eight years, many career employees and rank-and-file scientists have clashed with Bush appointees over a number of those of issues, including whether the federal government should allow California to regulate tailpipe emissions from automobiles and how best to prevent imperiled species from disappearing altogether.

In June 2007, Obama told reporters in Reno, Nev., that he would not hesitate to reverse many of the environmental policies Bush has enacted by executive order.

“I think the slow chipping away against clean air and clean water has been deeply disturbing,” Obama added. “Much of it hasn’t gone through Congress. It was done by fiat. That is something that can be changed by an administration, in part by reinvigorating the EPA, which has been demoralized.”

Global warming policies are expected to mark one of the sharpest breaks between the Obama and the Bush administrations.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson overruled his career advisers in deciding to deny California authority to control tailpipe emissions and rejecting their conclusion that global warming poses a threat to public welfare, and Obama is likely to reverse both of those policies shortly after taking office. This month, the president-elect told delegates to the Governors’ Global Climate Summit that he would push for a federal cap-and-trade system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and then to cut them an additional 80 percent by 2050, targets Bush has never embraced.

“Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response,” Obama said in a videotaped message. “The stakes are too high, the consequences too serious.”

Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, said that together, the two agencies will help shape the government’s response to climate change.

Clark, who headed the Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton, is not a formal Obama adviser, but many of her former Clinton colleagues are helping the transition team, including David Hayes, a partner at Latham & Watkins; John Leshy, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law; and Robert Sussman, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

“EPA will play the lead role in crafting a regulatory response,” Clark said. “Interior has a huge role to play in adaptation” — the effort to cope with climate changes that are already happening, such as drought and more frequent wildfires.

EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said Wednesday that the agency is focused on finalizing policies on coal-fired power plants and other matters, but he would not speculate on the task the next administration faces: “We’ll let the next team decide what their priorities will be when they get here.”

With escalating responsibilities, both agencies will need more resources after years when their budgets shrank, relatively speaking. The EPA received $7.5 billion from Congress in 2008, down from $7.8 billion in 2001. Interior has fared slightly better, getting $11.1 billion compared with $10.4 billion in 2001, but that represents more than a 10 percent cut in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who as chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has feuded with both Johnson and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne over global warming and other issues, said in an interview that she has high expectations of the people who will take their places.

“I’m expecting President-elect Obama to select people who really care about the issues they’re in charge of, someone who believes in their mission and not someone who’s going to undermine their mission,” she said. “That’s a sea change.”

There is a long list of Democrats vying to take the helm of both agencies. The two leading contenders for EPA administrator are Mary Nichols, a favorite of Boxer’s who chairs the California Air Resources Board, and Lisa Jackson, who is in the midst of switching from heading New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection to serving as chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine. Other possible nominees include Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty; Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles; former Sierra Club president and environmental activist Lisa Renstrom; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Pace University law professor and chairman of the Waterkeeper Alliance, another advocacy group.

The list for Interior is almost as long. Two House Democrats, Raul M. Grijalva (Ariz.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.) are contenders, but Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe, as well as three former Interior officials — David Hayes, John Leshy and Clark at Defenders of Wildlife — have all been mentioned.

Regardless of who takes over at the agencies, the new leaders will face impatient scrutiny from green groups eager to change the government’s trajectory on the environment. Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, ticked off 10 initiatives he expects the new EPA administrator to undertake, including changing rules on emissions from coal-fired power plants and monitoring airborne lead pollution more closely.

“The Bush administration has cut so many special deals for industry that it could be a Herculean effort reversing them all,” O’Donnell said. “The new team is going to have to muck out the regulatory stables.”

Kudos to O’Donnell for the extended metaphorical reference to Hercules’ Fifth Labor: Cleaning up the Augean Stables. Hercules cleaned the mess up by diverting the River Alpheus to pass through the stables. After eight years of crapping on the American public — and the world — the a bomb administration may have to divert a couple of rivers.

7 Responses to EPA, Interior Dept. chiefs will be busy cleaning up Bush’s crap

  1. guy darby says:


    Love your site.Kudos.

    Have you have a chance to read the US Chamber of Commerce’s plan?

    I am browsing it and my initial reaction is heavy on business, lite on dealing with climate change.

    Issues so far are:

    “Revising the Clean Air Act for which it was orginally intended, rescend the DC Appeals Court decion”…my concern is that if the CAA is open for reform it will be open the door for likes of the proposed Palumbo changes (past decade). Further, just like the EPA obstructed changes under Bush, it can be used as a lever by Obama to force changes in the absence of Congressional action (one filibuster by Imhofe)…

    While there is strong changes in the tax code to promote targeted investment, and faster depreciation of assets(which interesting enough may increase costs to consumers)…i am not sure that there is adequate focus on carbon tax/pollution tax/climate damage charge…(note: they did want to restrict any such activity that may be used by government to fund research…”Climate polices should not promote wind fall taxes to government”….I guess this opens the door to tax and dividend?

    “Any climate change policy should be conditional on international agreement” Thus the chicken and egg dilemna remains open….”What about China?” Good grief, lack of leadership here.

    There seems to be an unusual focus on data transparency…What’s the issue here? Is data not currently being shared?

    Lastly, in not so many words, seems to promote “Drill, baby, drill”, on the shelf and Anwar.

  2. Jay Alt says:

    guy darby writes:
    There seems to be an unusual focus on data transparency…What’s the issue here? Is data not currently being shared?

    First, I assume there are legit transparency issues to be resolved before international agreements could work properly.

    But the way the summary you link uses it, it sounds like they may be looking to strengthen the Data Quality Act. This is a cute little law slipped onto the books in 2001 without any discussion.

    One way the law been misused –

    And here’s how US Chamber of Commerce tried to game to the decisions. In this case it was unsuccessful, even with their pals in charge –

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Sorta on topic, global warming is hard on soils:

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    OT, but did you see this over at TPM? ? ? My jaw dropped.

    based on this letter from the western states governors to Obama asking for GHG reductions

    It’s not perfect of course, but . . . wow.

  5. George W. Bush wrecked the whole government, not just a few departments. I retired from the Department of Defense in 2004. GWB contracted out the DOD, putting the foxes in charge of the chicken coop. GWB likes “efficient” bureaucrats. An “efficient” bureaucrat just hands the check to the contractor. I was an “INefficient” bureaucrat. I demanded weapons that actually worked in exchange for the check.

  6. Here is how to put an end to the burning of coal to make electricity: Tell the American public that coal contains uranium.
    It is easy to shut down coal fired power plants. Just make them follow the same
    rules that nuclear power plants have to obey.

    Clean coal is coal that stays in the ground undisturbed.

    Coal is mostly carbon, but the complete list of impurities in coal includes every
    element in the periodic table. The major impurities are, depending on where
    you found it: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt,
    Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur,
    Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium,
    Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. Coal smoke and
    cinders are commercially viable ORE for the above elements. Chinese industrial
    grade coal contains much more arsenic than American coal. Chinese industrial
    grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the
    whole family dies of arsenic poisoning. Coal varies a lot. You have to analyze
    it not only mine by mine but even lump by lump. Coal is a rock. It comes out
    of the ground. What would you expect of a rock?
    by Alex Gabbard
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory
    Oak Ridge, TN
    Selections from the 19th Annual Conference
    March 14,15,16, 1996
    Nashville, Tennessee

    Published by the
    Edited by Jack D. Arters, Ed.D.
    Conference Director
    The truth is, all natural rocks contain most natural elements. Coal is a rock.
    The average concentration of uranium in coal is 1 or 2 parts per million. Illinois
    coal contains up to 103 parts per million uranium. A 1000 million watt coal
    fired power plant burns 4 million tons of coal each year. If you multiply 4
    million tons by 1 part per million, you get 4 tons of uranium. Most of that is
    U238. About .7% is U235. 4 tons = 8000 pounds. 8000 pounds times .7% =
    56 pounds of U235. An average 1000 million watt coal fired power plant puts
    out 56 to 112 pounds of U235 every year. There are only 2 places the uranium
    can go: Up the stack or into the cinders.
    Since a reactor full fuel load is around 11 tons of 2% U235 and 98% U238, and
    one load lasts about 10 years, and what one coal fired power plant puts into the
    air and cinders fully fuels a nuclear power plant.
    Compare 4 Million tons per year with 1.1 tons per year. 1.1 divided by 4 Million
    = 2.75 E -7 = .000000275 =.0000275%. Remember that only 2% of that is
    U235. The nuclear power plant needs ~44 pounds of U235 per year. The coal
    fired power plant burns coal by the trainload. The nuclear power plant consumes
    U235 in such small quantities yearly that you could carry that much weight in a
    briefcase. The full fuel load and the years between fueling varies from reactor to
    reactor, but one truck can carry the weight of a full nuclear fuel load.
    See also:

  7. paulm says:

    This delayism and down right criminal behavior of corporations and the individuals associated with them has been going on from the beginning.

    Essential reading…

    The Shadows of Consumption gives a hard-hitting diagnosis: many of the earth’s ecosystems and billions of its people are at risk from the consequences of rising consumption.,M1

    This is precisely why the free market is not the answer to society and the real solution is the free market within an envelope of sustainability ie the ultimate good of the ourselves and the planet.

    Also if you haven’t seen the last Scian special ed its worth getting…
    Earth 3.0