Tag Archives: Mary Peters

Lobbying For Global Warming

Yesterday, the UN held a major conference on climate change (Bush was a no-show) and the Secretary-General called for immediate action to preserve the future of the planet.  In a separate event, the President will call for a consensus about the world’s highest-emitting nations that would allow each to set their own voluntary limits on greenhouse gas emissions instead of it being ordered by an international treaty.

Not a good idea, I know.  But let’s accept Bush’s logic for a moment (and only a moment, before you slip into dementia).  He believes that governing entities should be given latitude to make the climate change policies that they see fit, rather than having them signaled from on high.  Unless, of course, that refers to states in this country and the one on high is him:

The Bush administration has conducted a concerted, behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to try to generate opposition to California’s request to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, according to documents obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform […]

A flurry of e-mails among Transportation Department (DOT) officials and between its staffers and the White House, released yesterday, highlights efforts that administration officials have made to stir up public opposition to the waiver. Rather than attacking California’s request outright, Bush officials quietly reached out to two dozen congressional offices and a handful of governors to try to undermine it.

One May 22 e-mail written by Jeff Shane, undersecretary of transportation for policy, outlined how Transportation Secretary Mary Peters orchestrated the campaign. Peters “asked that we develop some ideas asap about facilitating a pushback from governors (esp. D’s) and others opposed to piecemeal regulation of emissions, as per CA’s waiver petition,” Shane wrote. “She has heard that such objections could have an important effect on the way Congress looks at the issue.”


Waxman has been investigating this issue for some time.  In fact, back in June, he even released a voice mail from a DOT staffer to a member of Congress asking them to oppose the EPA waiver for California.  But this new data is just more evidence of the total politicization of federal agencies, and the ideologically driven desire to stop all efforts to curb the production of greenhuse gas emissions.  It also happens to be completely illegal to use our tax dollars to mount such a behind-the-scenes campaign.

In a letter yesterday to James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) asked him to “repudiate these efforts.”

“If Secretary Peters has concerns about whether California’s application meets the legal standards set forth in the Clean Air Act, she should submit comments to EPA making her case,” wrote Waxman, chairman of the oversight panel, which negotiated for three months to have the documents released. “Instead of taking this action, however, she apparently sought and received White House approval to use taxpayer funds to mount a lobbying campaign designed to inject political considerations into the decision.”

The Governor is on a barnstorming tour, selling his own action on climate change to the UN (while conveniently forgetting to mention firing the head of the Air Resources Board because he was pushing too hard for emission reductions, or the three important environmental bills on his desk he has yet to sign).  He may want to speak up about this effort to undermine all anti-global warming efforts, which incidentally is coming from the standard-bearer of his own party.  Or he could keep giving speeches and savor applause.

Department of Transportation tries to sabotage CA tailpipe emissions law

We didn’t need any more evidence that the Bush Administration uses the executive branch as a political instrument.  But this latest example shows that they will use federal agencies to work to oppose legislative efforts at the state level, making a complete mockery of the entire premise of federalism itself.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Henry Waxman has received information that the Department of Transportation has been lobbying members of Congress to oppose state efforts, sought by California and others, to regulate tailpipe emissions.  California is waiting for an EPA waiver to implement their tailpipe emissions proposal.  The Governor has threatened to sue the EPA if they don’t receive that waiver.  The first roadblock that the EPA tried was to appeal to the Supreme Court by claiming that they didn’t have the ability to regulate greenhouse gases, but in a landmark decision the Supreme Court said that they did.  So plan B, apparently, is to use the DOT to threaten legislators in automobile-producing districts that their local economies would be severly impacted by any efforts to regulate.  This excerpt is from a letter by Waxman to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering a request from the State of California for a waiver under the Clean Air Act (Waxman wrote the Clean Air Act -ed.) to establish state motor vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gases…

My understanding is that the Department of Transportation and the Bush Administration have not taken an official postition on this issue.  However, the staff of a member of Congress recently received a voicemail message from Heideh Shahmoradi, special assistant for governmental affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, suggesting that the member (1) submit comments to EPA opposing California’s request and (2) “reach out to your governor’s office for them to submit comments since this would greatly impact auto facilities within your district.”

You can read the full text of the voicemail and the entire letter from Rep. Waxman to Sec. Peters at this link.

This is patently illegal.  The DOT, which is supposed to merely regulate and facilitate transportation and not advocate on behalf of automobile interests, is lobbying Congress to influence an EPA ruling that would affect state legislation.  Within the letter, there are other instances of federal agencies in the Clinton Administration distributing talking points supporting or opposing Congressional legislation.  But this goes even further, asking Congress to step in to an exceutive agency decision which will nullify state efforts to tackle global warming.  It allows the President to be supposedly neutral about the EPA ruling while getting Congress to do his dirty work for him.

For the past six years of Republican rule, Congress has done nothing while the planet has continued to warm and spew harnful greenhouse gases into the air.  States like California have stopped waiting around for the feds to get their act together, and put forward their own plan, which is completely legal under the Clean Air Act.  Now the Bush Administration is using federal agencies illegally to try and derail it.  Now that we actually have oversight in the Congress (in one branch, anyway), we are beginning to see the depth of the politicization of these federal agencies, suggesting that what has been done behind the scenes in these two terms of office has been far more destructive that what has been done out in the open.