Former EPA Official: White House For Regulating Greenhouse Gases Before They Were Against It
At a Senate hearing today Jason Burnett, a former Environmental Protection Agency official, testified to how the White House changed its mind on whether the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases. Burnett, who worked with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to formulate global warming policy, said the White House was totally for regulating global warming-causing emissions in November 2007. But what happened next, Burnett told the Senate environment and public works committee, was "strange indeed."
Burnett sent an email to the White House in December saying that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and that, therefore EPA has no choice but to regulate them (the Supreme Court ruled in May 2007 that EPA must regulate greenhouses if they are proved harmful). Originally, Joel Kaplan, the White House deputy chief of staff, and the Office of Management Budget agreed. But then Kaplan and OMB abruptly told Burnett to say that he "accidentally" sent the email. Burnett refused to do so and the email is still sitting apparently unopened by the White House.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-Ca.) chair of the committee, is planning to hold a committee vote Thursday on whether to subpoena the email.
Burnett also spent today giving equally eyebrow-raising accounts of how the EPA administrator was for, then quickly against, giving California a waiver to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles. Burnett said Johnson changed his mind after it was specified to Johnson that the president wanted a "single fuel economy standard" for vehicles. This standard would be the energy bill that became law in December.
In both of these decisions, Burnett said that he, Johnson and two other top EPA officials would meet with top representatives from the White House, President’s office, Vice President’s office and other government agencies like the Dept. of Transportation and OMB. While Burnett charitably described it as a "robust interagency process" he was taken aback by OMB general counsel Jeff Rosen’s ignorance about global warming-causing carbon dioxide molecules. Rosen requested that EPA only count carbon dioxide molecules in the air that came from automobiles, not ones from power plants. "It was sometimes embarrassing," Burnett said, "For me to return to EPA and say that I had to explain to OMB that carbon dioxide is a molecule and you can’t differentiate in the air where a molecule came from."
The gist of Burnett’s revelations have come out in earlier transcribed interviews he provided to Congressional committees. Republicans on the Senate environment committee, normally ardent foes of Boxer’s preferred global warming policies, did not question the veracity of Burnett’s testimony. Idaho’s Larry Craig, though, did try to take a swipe by noting Burnett’s not a doctor. And he entered into the record "some additional information on Burnett." This information is probably that Burnett’s given a ton of money to the Obama campaign and may start to work for it.
As long as Larry Craig’s the only politician questioning his motives, Burnett’s account should stick– and shape the story of Bush’s EPA.