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
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."
The next day, Shane sent Tyler Duvall, assistant secretary for transportation policy, an e-mail asking: "Are we making any headway in identifying sympathetic governors? [Peters] asked me about them again this morning. . . . She's going to want to address it this afternoon."
Some DOT officials expressed discomfort with the campaign. When one government affairs aide in Peters's office who had been making calls to lawmakers questioned whether the department was being too aggressive, an assistant secretary responded, "I think we need to be a bit careful on this." The agency's chief of staff wrote the next day, "The last e-mail isn't a good conversation for email."
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
Connaughton's spokeswoman, Kristen Hellmer, defended Peters, saying "the issue comes in the context" of President Bush's call to cut gasoline use by 20 percent by using alternative fuels and increasing fuel efficiency for cars and trucks.
"The EPA administrator will be making an independent and objective decision based on the merits of
DOT released a statement yesterday saying its staff's efforts were "legal, appropriate and consistent with our long-held position on this issue."
But Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear questioned why Bush officials would go to such lengths to mobilize opposition.
"The Clean Air Act gives
Tactics questioned in emissions lobbying
Administration officials improperly campaigned to defeat
The Environmental Protection Agency's decision whether to permit the state to impose its own standards is "supposed to be made on the merits," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-
Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, leveled his accusation of improper lobbying in a letter to James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The administration's effort, Waxman wrote, "suggests political considerations -- not the merits of the issue -- will determine how EPA acts."
The federal Clean Air Act allows
President Bush and his aides had argued that federal officials did not have the power to set mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Waxman on Monday cited e-mail exchanges between administration officials that he said confirmed the lobbying effort.
In a June e-mail, Simon Gros, then the Transportation Department's deputy chief of staff, advised Peters that his staff called "just about every auto-friendly member" of Congress. Waxman said the calls came days after an auto-industry trade group gave the department a list of vehicle-producing facilities by congressional district. Department officials spoke with or left messages for the staffs of at least three senators, 23 representatives from
Waxman complained to Connaughton that the Transportation Department activities were apparently conducted with the approval of Connaughton's office, which coordinates federal environmental efforts.
Some Transportation officials expressed concerns about the lobbying, Waxman asserted. A May e-mail from Assistant Secretary Tyler Duvall to Undersecretary Jeff Shane said: "I think we need to be a bit careful with this." The next day, Chief of Staff Robert Johnson wrote to Shane: "The last e-mail isn't a good conversation for e-mail."
The Department of Transportation said in a statement that its efforts to "inform elected officials about the petition before EPA were legal, appropriate and consistent with our long-held position on this issue. For over 30 years, the department has supported a single, national fuel-economy standard as part of our effort to save fuel, ensure safety, preserve the environment and protect the economy."
At the Council on Environmental Quality, spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer said EPA officials would make an "independent and objective decision based on the merits of
"Outreach by federal officials to state government counterparts and members of Congress on issues of major national policy is an appropriate and routine component of policy development," she added.
Waxman launched his investigation into whether federal officials were improperly lobbying after obtaining a voice mail this year from a Department of Transportation aide to a congressional staffer warning that if
Shortly after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling that greenhouse gases were air pollutants subject to federal regulation, the EPA opened a required public comment period on