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US Environmental Record

Government appointments and resignations

Project: US Environmental Issues
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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President George Bush appoints Philip A. Cooney as the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which helps create and promote administration policies on environmental issues. In that position, he also serves as the Bush’s “climate team leader.” Cooney, a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in economics, was formerly a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. He has no background in science. [New York Times, 6/8/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Philip A. Cooney

Category Tags: Energy industry, Global warming, Appointments and resignations

On his first day in office, President Bush has his chief of staff, Andrew Card, issue directives to every executive department with authority over environmental issues, and orders them to immediately put on hold dozens of regulations passed by the Clinton administration. The Clinton regulations include lowering arsenic levels in drinking water; reducing the release of raw sewage into rivers and streams; setting limits on logging, drilling, and mining on public lands; increasing energy efficiency standards; and banning snowmobiles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. [Carter, 2004, pp. 127]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Clinton administration, George W. Bush

Category Tags: National Parks, Public land use, Air pollution, Water pollution, Appointments and resignations

Larisa E. Dobriansky is appointed deputy assistant secretary for national energy policy at the Department of Energy. Her job will be to manage the department’s Office of Climate Change Policy. Prior to the appointment, she was an employee of Akin Gump, where she lobbied for ExxonMobil on climate change issues. [Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Larisa E. Dobriansky

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Category Tags: Appointments and resignations

Curtis Hebert of the FERC.Curtis Hebert of the FERC. [Source: PBS]Curtis Hebert is replaced by Pat Wood as the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Hebert announced his resignation on August 6. [US Department of Energy, 12/2001] Hebert, a Clinton appointee who nevertheless is a conservative Republican, an ally of Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), and quite friendly towards the energy corporations, had been named to the FERC shortly before Clinton left office; Bush named him to chair the commission in January 2001. [Consortium News, 5/26/2006]
Replaced at Enron Request - Hebert is apparently replaced at the request of Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, who did not find Hebert responsive enough in doing Enron’s bidding. Hebert had just taken the position of FERC chairman in January when he received a phone call from Lay, in which Lay pressured him to back a faster pace in opening up access to the US electricity transmission grid to Enron and other corporations. (Lay later admits making the call, but will say that keeping or firing Hebert is the president’s decision, not his.) When Hebert did not move fast enough for Lay, he is replaced by Pat Wood, a close friend of both Lay and President Bush. [Guardian, 5/26/2001; Los Angeles Times, 12/11/2001] Lay apparently threatened Hebert with the loss of his job if he didn’t cooperate with Enron’s request for a more pro-Enron regulatory posture. [CNN, 1/14/2002]
Opposed Enron Consolidation Plan - Hebert was leery of Enron’s plan to force consolidation of the various state utilities into four huge regional transmission organizations (RTOs), a plan that would have given Enron and other energy traders far larger markets for their energy sales. Hebert, true to his conservative beliefs, is a states’ rights advocate who was uncomfortable with the plan to merge the state utilities into four federal entities. Lay told Hebert flatly that if he supported the transition to the RTOs, Lay would back him in retaining his position with FERC. Hebert told reporters that he was “offended” at the veiled threat, but knew that Lay could back up his pressure, having already demonstrated his influence over selecting Bush administration appointees by giving Bush officials a list of preferred candidates and personally interviewing at least one potential FERC nominee (see January 21, 2001). [PBS, 2/2/2002; Consortium News, 5/26/2006] According to Hebert, Lay told him that “he and Enron would like to support me as chairman, but we would have to agree on principles.” [Guardian, 5/26/2001] Hebert added to another reporter, “I think he would be a much bigger supporter of mine if I was willing to do what he wanted me to do.” Lay recently admitted to making such a list of preferred candidates: “I brought a list. We certainly presented a list, and I think that was by way of letter. As I recall I signed a letter which, in fact, had some recommendations as to people that we thought would be good commissioners.…I’m not sure I ever personally interviewed any of them but I think in fact there were conversations between at least some of them and some of my people from time to time.” [PBS, 2/2/2002]
Cheney Behind Ouster - Joe Garcia, a Florida energy regulator, says he was interviewed by Lay and other Enron officials. After Hebert made it clear to Lay that he wouldn’t go along with Lay’s plans to reorganize the nation’s utilities, Vice President Dick Cheney, who supervises the Bush administration’s energy policies (see May 16, 2001, began questioning Hebert’s fitness. [Guardian, 5/26/2001] Cheney said in May 2001, “Pat Wood has got to be the new chairman of FERC.” In private, Cheney said then that Hebert was out as chairman and Wood was in, though Hebert did not know at the time that his days were numbered. [PBS, 2/2/2002] “It just confirms what we believed and what we’ve been saying, that the Bush-Cheney energy plan is written by corporations and it’s in the interests of the corporations,” says the National Environmental Trust’s Kevin Curtis. [Guardian, 5/26/2001] Not only was Hebert not responsive enough to Lay’s pressure, but he had become a focus of criticism for his refusal to scrutinize Enron’s price gouging in the California energy deregulation debacle. Wood’s more moderate position helps ease the worries of other states themselves losing confidence in the Bush administration’s deregulation advocacy. [American Prospect, 1/2/2002]
Hebert Investigating Enron Schemes - And even more unsettling for Enron, Hebert was beginning to investigate Enron’s complicated derivative-financing procedures, an investigation that may have led to an untimely exposure of Enron’s financial exploitation of the US’s energy deregulation—exploitation that was going on under plans nicknamed, among other monikers, “Fat Boy,” “Death Star,” “Get Shorty,” all of which siphoned electricity away from areas that needed it most and being paid exorbitant fees for phantom transfers of energy supposedly to ease transmission-line congestion. [Consortium News, 5/26/2006] “One of our problems is that we do not have the expertise to truly unravel the complex arbitrage activities of a company like Enron,” Hebert recently told reporters. “We’re trying to do it now and we may have some results soon.” [Guardian, 5/26/2001] Instead, Hebert is forced out of FERC. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called for an investigation into Enron’s improper influence of the FERC committee after the media revealed Lay’s phone call to Hebert in May 2001 (see May 25, 2001).

Entity Tags: National Environmental Trust, Trent Lott, Kevin Curtis, Pat Wood, Kenneth Lay, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, George W. Bush, Curtis Hebert, Joe Garcia, Dianne Feinstein, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Enron Corporation

Category Tags: Corruption, Corporate welfare, Appointments and resignations, Politicization and deception, Energy industry, Oil and gas industry

Michele Merkel, a staff attorney in the EPA’s enforcement division whose specialty is in the area of factory farming, resigns because of the administration’s reluctance to enforce federal regulatory laws and because she believes the livestock industry has too much influence on EPA oversight of factory farms. [Los Angeles Times, 6/3/2002; Knight Ridder, 5/16/2004; Grist Magazine, 5/24/2004] “Once the Bush team came in, I was not allowed to pursue any further air lawsuits against CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations],” she tells Muckraker. “We got political cover to continue what was underway, but I was told that new efforts were off-limits. It wasn’t just coming from my EPA superiors, it was coming from the White House.” [Grist Magazine, 5/24/2004] “Ultimately what drove me out of the agency was the anti-enforcement philosophy of the current administration,” Merkel tells the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Michele Merkel, Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Corruption, Appointments and resignations, Environmental enforcement, Agribusiness

Eric Schaeffer, 47, head of the EPA’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement, sends his letter of resignation to EPA administrator Christine Whitman. In the letter he says that he and his colleagues have been “fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules that [EPA employees] are trying to enforce.” He complains that the administration is crippling the EPA’s enforcement divisions with budget cuts and that the White House is working with energy-industry lobbyists to weaken the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act which requires older coal power plants to install pollution controls when upgrading plant equipment (see August 27, 2003). [Schaeffer, 2/27/2002; Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/1/2002; Washington Monthly, 7/2002; New York Times, 1/5/2004; MSNBC, 4/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43), Eric Schaeffer

Category Tags: Air pollution, Appointments and resignations, Environmental enforcement

Indian engineer and economist Rajendra K. Pachauri is elected with US backing as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [New York Times, 4/20/2002] US energy industry lobbyists had pressured Washington to block the reelection of Robert T. Watson, whose views about global warming had irked American energy companies (see February 6, 2001 and April 2, 2002).

Entity Tags: Rajendra K. Pachauri, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Category Tags: Global warming, Appointments and resignations, Energy industry

President George Bush names Utah Governor Mike Leavitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), replacing Christie Todd Whitman who resigned in June. [US President, 8/18/2003] Leavitt was at the center of a controversy a couple of months ago for a back-room deal he made with Interior Secretary Gale Norton to suspend wilderness studies on millions of acres of Utah lands (see April 11, 2003). He supports replacing mandatory pollution controls with voluntary compliance programs for polluting industries and is a strong backer of the administration’s policy of shifting environmental regulation to the states. [Washington Times, 8/12/2003] During his term as governor, US Magnesium, a magnesium-processing company on the western side of the Great Salt Lake, earned the place as the nation’s worst polluter. Leavitt says that he and Bush “have a like mind and a like heart” on environmental policy. [Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/2003] Environmentalists condemn the nomination noting that aside from Leavitt’s strong opposition to a plan to store nuclear waste on a Utah Indian reservation, the governor has a very poor environmental record. “Mike Leavitt has no credentials, no understanding and no political willpower to protect America’s clean air, clean water and clean land,” Marc Clemens, chapter coordinator for the Utah Sierra Club, tells the Salt Lake Tribune. [Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/2003]

Entity Tags: Mike Leavitt, Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Public land use, Air pollution, Water pollution, Appointments and resignations

Bruce Buckheit, 56, the director of the EPA’s air enforcement office, resigns from his post out of frustration with the Bush administration’s changes to the Clean Air Act (see August 27, 2003) (see December 2003). [New York Times, 1/5/2004; MSNBC, 4/20/2004; Government Executive, 5/15/2004] “I had to defend something I didn’t believe in,” he explains. [Government Executive, 5/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43), Bruce Buckheit

Category Tags: Air pollution, Appointments and resignations

Michael Kelly, a federal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, resigns complaining that “threatened coho salmon in the Klamath basin still do not have adequate flow conditions to assure their survival” and that his recommendations continue to be politicized by higher-ups. Kelley had previously blown the whistle on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after they had twice rejected the recommendations of a team he headed for the National Marine Fisheries Service (see April 2002). The BLM decision to ignore the recommendations led to the death of 33,000 steelhead and federally protected salmon in the Klamath River (see September 2002), the largest fish kill in US history. More recently, Kelly explains, his regional manager, Jim Lecky, has attempted to overide a study he conducted concluding that a levee repair proposed by the California Department of Fish and Game on the 120-acre Eel River Wildlife Area would endanger California Coastal Chinook salmon and adversely impact Dungeness crab, herring, larval rockfish, eelgrass, other salmonids and the overall ecosystem. “[A]ny amount of caution would dictate that this project never be considered,” he says in a resignation letter he will release on May 19. He says the motivation behind the project appears to be concentrating “certain species of ducks into a smaller area for hunting purposes.” Kelly adds that his position is supported by fisheries biologists within the Department of Fish and Game as well as local wetland scientists and ornithologists. He will also say in his letter that there is low morale among the NOAA Fisheries staff in the region and that his colleagues are “embarrassed and disgusted by the agency’s apparent misuse of science.” [PEER, 5/19/2004; Kelly, 5/19/2004; Associated Press, 5/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Jim Lecky, Michael Kelly

Category Tags: Wetlands, Appointments and resignations, Endangered species, Klamath Basin Fish Kill

Criminal and civil environmental violations fall off sharply during the Bush administration’s first term. A study of internal Justice Department records obtained by the nonpartisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows that federal prosecutions of environmental crimes decline by 23 percent after President Bush takes office. Convictions for environmental violations are also fewer than in President Clinton’s second term, as are referrals to prosecutors by regulatory agencies. [Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 9/19/2004] A separate study shows that civil lawsuits brought against polluters also fall dramatically during this period. In the first three years of the Bush administration, only nine suits to enforce the Clean Air Act are filed by the EPA, compared to 61 in the three years prior to Bush taking office. EPA litigation to enforce the Clean Water Act declines by over 39 percent over the same period. [Environmental Integrity Project, 10/12/2004] The study is compiled by Eric Schaeffer, the former director of the EPA Office of Regulatory Enforcement who resigns from his post in 2002 (see February 27, 2002)

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency, Eric Schaeffer

Category Tags: Air pollution, Appointments and resignations, Environmental enforcement

Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigns. Two days earlier, the New York Times revealed he had edited reports downplaying the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. According to White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino, his departure is unrelated to the recent disclosure. “Phil Cooney did a great job,” she says, “and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.” Four days later, ExxonMobil announces that Cooney will be working for the company in the fall. [New York Times, 6/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, ExxonMobil

Category Tags: Appointments and resignations, Global warming

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton resigns. In her resignation letter to President Bush she thanks him and praises him for “great work in the face of hurricanes, record-setting wildfires and droughts, acrimonious litigation, and expanded post 9/11 security responsibilities.” [CNN, 3/10/2006] Norton, who has been criticized by environmental groups for opening public lands up to timber (see December 11, 2002), mining, and oil and gas interests (see April 11, 2003, October 8, 2003, and January 21, 2004), will be hired as a key legal advisor for Royal Dutch Shell PLC in December. [New West, 12/27/2006]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Royal Dutch/Shell, Gale A. Norton

Category Tags: Appointments and resignations

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