The New York Times revealed yesterday that the White House’s global warming denial reached levels of absurdity that would be hilarious if the stakes weren’t so high. Last December, senior EPA officials tell the Times, White House officials literally refused to open the e-mail from the EPA that concluded that “greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled.” The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin fills in more details:
And upon learning that EPA had hit the “send” button just minutes earlier, the White House called again to demand that the e-mail be recalled. The EPA official who forwarded the e-mail, Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett, refused, said the sources, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.
That fateful December confrontation — Burnett “sent the e-mail to the White House Office of Management and Budget at 2:17 p.m. Dec. 5 and received the call warning him to hold off at 2:25 p.m.” — was the culmination of months of effort by the EPA following April’s Supreme Court mandate to take action on global warming pollution. As documents shown to the House Global Warming Committee under threat of subpoena revealed, “EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson determined that man-made global warming is unequivocal, the evidence is both compelling and robust, and the administration must act to prevent harm rather than wait for harm to occur before acting.”
Instead, the administration acted to prevent the EPA from following its legal and moral duty. After the White House rejected the EPA’s efforts, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson reversed his decision to allow California to regulate tailpipe greenhouse emissions. All work at the EPA on global warming ceased, and in May Burnett announced his resignation.
Today, Johnson’s EPA is expected to unveil a censored version of the report it submitted to the White House in December, as an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” asking for new round of comments on whether global warming represents a threat to human health and whether it should take action. This administration knows full well that global warming represents a very present threat to our health and security, as reports issued this month by its scientific and intelligence agencies reveal. Of course, Bush impeded those reports as well. The scientific assessment was submitted under court order, four years after its legal deadline, and the intelligence assessment was classified despite being based on public information.
Burnett — who came to the EPA with an anti-regulatory background — is now telling reporters he resigned because the White House threw away his efforts to confront the threat of global warming. In an email to the Post, he wrote:
The White House made it clear they did not want to address the ramifications of that finding and have decided to leave the challenge to the next administration. Some [at the White House] thought that EPA had mistakenly concluded that climate change endangers the public. It was no mistake.
Last Friday, Bush asserted executive privilege to prevent the House Oversight Committee from investigating his involvement in this gross dereliction of duty.
UPDATE: At Dot Earth, Andy Revkin reminds us the Bush stonewalling of the EPA on global warming began “just two months into his first term to abandon his campaign pledge in 2000 to restrict carbon dioxide from power plants.” A March 7, 2001 memorandum from the EPA to the White House recommended that the carbon dioxide pledge be kept, but a group of non-scientists rejected the plea. Among the cabal of right-wing officials with industry ties who blocked action in 2001 was the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Marcus Peacock, now the number-two official at the EPA.