Oil lobbyists convinced White House to drop environmental regulation plans

[JURIST] The Bush administration abandoned plans to impose Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] regulations on power plants and other stationary pollution sources after opposition from the oil industry, according to a report [PDF text; press release] released Friday by the House Select Committee on Global Warming [official website]. Based on interviews [transcript, PDF] with former EPA official Jason Burnett, the committee found that there was early widespread support within both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] and the Bush administration for extending the scope of existing environmental regulations, but that the White House reversed its approach after lobbying by oil companies:

The oil industry argued against regulatory action, and had the support of the Office of Vice President Cheney. In developing its proposals to make a positive endangerment finding and to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions from both vehicles and stationary sources, EPA consulted with a wide range of environmental and industry stakeholders. Environmental stakeholders and, interestingly, some electric utility representatives, including the Edison Electric Institute (which represents the nation's major investor-owned utilities), agreed that it would be best for EPA to proceed with regulation of both vehicles and stationary sources using Clean Air Act authority. But others, including oil industry representatives from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, adopted a "not on my watch" approach – arguing that such regulations would tarnish President Bush's conservative anti-regulatory legacy, and should be delayed until the next President took office. Those arguments were echoed, within the White House, by Vice President Cheney's energy adviser, F. Chase Hutto III.

Doing the oil industry's bidding, the Bush administration reversed course. After passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, the arguments put forward by the oil industry representatives began to prevail in inter-agency and White House discussions on how to respond to the Massachusetts v. EPA decision. By March 2008, EPA announced that, instead of issuing proposals for a positive endangerment finding and regulations, it would move forward with a non-regulatory "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" (ANPR). By mid-April 2008, President Bush announced in a speech that "the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change," and went on to assert that Congress, not the Executive Branch, was responsible for deciding how to address greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Burnett, the White House first instructed the EPA to begin preparing a greenhouse gas regulation plan in November 2007. In December, after the EPA had submitted its findings to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the administration ordered it to retract the report. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson [official profile] reportedly refused to do so, and the OMB refused to review the EPA's report. The New York Times has more.

The move to regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA began after the US Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report] that the EPA has the authority under the Act to regulate automobiles' emission of "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide. In April, 17 states filed a petition [PDF text; press release] in the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit seeking to compel the EPA to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. The plaintiffs alleged that the EPA had failed to issue any regulations for greenhouse gases and asked the court to order the agency to take action within 60 days. During March testimony [statement, PDF] before the Senate Appropriations Committee [official website], Stephen L. Johnson refused to disclose a timeline [JURIST report] for the agency's compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.

 

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