Senate Democrats

Bush on Climate Change: A Record of Putting Big Polluters First

Today, President Bush spoke to delegates at the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change and called on individual nations to combat climate change. Unfortunately, the President and his administration have a very poor environmental and conservation record that includes manipulating and not enforcing the Clean Air Act, consistently placing the interests of oil and gas companies first, and  failing miserably to lead the nation and the world in reducing the risks of global warming. As Vice President Cheney said, “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.

Brief Highlights of the Bush Administration’s Environmental Record:

The Bush Administration Attempted to Gut the Clean Air Act with their ‘Clear Skies Initiative.’ Proposed in 2002, the President’s Clear Skies Initiative would have weakened many parts of the Clean Air Act and would have resulted in significantly fewer reductions of air pollutants than currently required. According to the Sierra Club, one of the main problems with Clear Skies is that it created a loophole exempting power plants from being held accountable to the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review (NSR) standards and from being required to install cleanup technology. NSR standards require new power plants and upgraded plants to comply with modern federal emissions limits. In addition, measure sought to delay the enforcement of public health standards for smog and soot until the end of 2015. [Sierra Club: Clear Skies Proposal Weakens the Clean Air Act]

  • A Federal Court Blocked The Bush Administration From Implementing The Clear Skies Initiative.  A federal appeals court blocked the Bush administration from implementing Clear Skies, which would have eased clean air requirements for some 17,000 industrial facilities, including coal-fired power plants and oil refineries. The unanimous ruling by the three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was a major victory for a coalition of 15 states and a long list of environmental and public health organizations who filed suit to block the August 2003 rule. “The court could not have told the EPA more clearly that they must follow the Clean Air Act as it is written, not as they wish it were written,” said Janice Nolen at the American Lung Association. “[It means] thousands of Americans will not have their lives cut short because of the pollution that would have blown through this huge loophole.” [ENS-Newswire, 3/20/06]

The Bush Administration Opposes Mandatory Caps on Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  The Bush administration made clear yesterday that it opposed “mandatory” limits on greenhouse gases for the United States but is willing to back “voluntary” limits and mandatory cuts on an industry by industry basis. “We have a broad portfolio of measures, mandates, incentives and public and private partnerships,” said James L. Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ. According to one published piece, the CEQ was Cheney’s “shadow EPA.” Cheney personally installed Connaughton, who was a former lobbyist for industrial polluters and who once worked to help General Electric and ARCO skirt responsibility for their Superfund waste sites. [Washington Post, 9/27/07; Washington Post, 6/21/07]

  • The Bush Administration Claimed It Did Not Have the Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gases, The Supreme Court Disagreed.  On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court overruled the Bush Administration’s claims that it did not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide.  The Court’s decision affirmed that emissions from cars and trucks are making a “meaningful contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations,” and that “a well-documented rise in global temperatures has coincided with a significant increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”  The decision obliges the Administration to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions, unless EPA can show those emissions are not contributing to global warming. [ABC News, 4/2/07]
  • Bush Administration Rejected the Kyoto Protocol. President Bush’s first EPA administrator, Christie Todd Whitman said, “No, we have no interest in implementing that treaty. If there’s a general agreement that we need to be addressing the global climate change issue, the question is how do we do it in a way that allows us to make some progress, instead of spending our time committed to something that isn’t going to go.” The Kyoto Protocol marked the first time that the world’s industrial nations committed to binding limits on the gases that scientists believe are the cause of global warming. Under its terms, the United States would have had to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and certain other pollutants by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. [Washington Post, 3/28/01]

Vice President Cheney Met Secretly With Oil and Gas Industry Executives To Formulate The Administration’s Energy Policy. The Sierra Club, an environmental group, and Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest group, sued Cheney, contending that as head of the energy task force he had violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972, which generally requires open meetings whenever outsiders offer advice to high government officials. During the litigation, Cheney refused to turn over documents detailing who met with his energy task force, and he has argued that the Constitution forbids private lawyers from asking for the information. [Los Angeles Times, 12/16/03]

  • Environmental Groups Complained Cheney Invited Them to Task Force Meetings “Just To Be Nice.” On April 4, 2001, representatives of 13 environmental groups were brought into the Old Executive Office Building for a long-anticipated meeting. Cheney was not there, but so many environmentalists were in the room that introductions took up “about half the meeting,” recalled Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth. Anna Aurilio of the U.S. Public Interest Group said, “It was clear to us that they were just being nice to us.” [Washington Post, 7/18/07]
  • Recently, Members of Cheney’s Energy Task Force Were Revealed. In July, it was reported that in fact the oil and gas industry played a prominent role in Cheney’s energy task force. The following link to the Washington Post, details all of the participants of the task force. [LINK]  
  • Cheney Did Not Believe There Was Consensus Global Warming Was Man-Made. In an interview to ABC News, Cheney said, “Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that’s part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it’s caused by man.” [ABC News Transcripts, 2/23/07]

President Bush and Cheney Sought Input from Enron Officials on Energy Policy.  For instance, Enron representatives met six times with Vice President Cheney or his aides on the nation’s energy policy, including a discussion in mid-October just before the company’s sudden collapse. In a letter to Congress, vice presidential counsel David Addington disclosed the number of meetings between the Bush White House and the former energy giant whose CEO, Ken Lay, has been among President Bush’s top political supporters. One of the meetings between Lay and Cheney occurred on April 17 to discuss “energy policy matters, including the energy crisis in California.” The day after meeting with Lay, Cheney said the Bush administration would not support price caps on wholesale energy sales in California. [AP, 1/8/02; New York Times, 1/26/02]