Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Inconvenient Email: We Pretend It Doesn't Exist

Despite all that we have seen over the past seven (long) years, these reports never fail to amaze me:

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
In addition to the economic benefits of emissions reductions, the email also included politically inconvenient analysis of the Clean Air Act. It concluded that the E.P.A. could regulate at least some greenhouse gases under current law, while the White House was arguing that the Clean Air Act gave no such authority and that new legislation would be required.

It has become pretty apparent at this point that this administration's goal is simply to run out the clock on greenhouse gas reductions and leave the problem for the next administration to solve. Still, refusing to even open an email, much less answer it, strikes me as particularly petty.