Stephen Johnson, the head of the EPA, is being asked to resign by several Democratic senators.

Johnson's sworn testimony is apparently contradicted by an EPA whistle-blower, who indicates that the decision to deny California's request to set up their own internal standards for greenhouse gas emissions was not a decision that was made solely by Johnson, but was swayed by the Bush administration.  Johnson went against a unanimous decision by his staff to grant this request, as well as his own original stand on the issue after receiving communication from the White House.  (FYI- seventeen other states were planning on adopting California's new standards once the EPA gave the go ahead)

Then he lied about it to Congress.

On Jan. 24, Johnson told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee under oath that he had made the decision on his own after determining there was no compelling evidence to justify California's plans. "The responsibility for making the decision for California rests with me and solely with me," Johnson said at the time. "I made the decision. It was my decision. It was the right decision."

Yesterday, however, former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett -- who resigned last month and has since divulged key details about how President Bush and his deputies have influenced the agency's decisions on climate policy -- testified before the committee that Johnson had concluded that California's request was legally justified -- until White House officials ordered him to reverse the decision.


Apparently, you can do pretty much anything you want in DC, but the minute you lie about it to Congress, you're in for a world of hurt.  Johnson deserves it for what he's continued to do to the EPA over the past three years. 


A few very talented people have been writing about this today, so I will hand you link salad.  However, I am fairly irritated that this story is not getting more play on the main news outlets.
Scientists have proposed a measure to protect the endangered North American right whale and, as expected, the administration is trying to shoot it down in favor of the shipping industry.

Highlights:
Because this animal is an endangered marine mammal, NMFS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is charged with designing a recovery plan for them.

More than four years of NOAA research showed that speed kills whales. Above a speed of about 10 knots, a right whale's encounter with a large ship would likely be fatal.



Many in the shipping industry oppose the speed limit, saying it would be too costly. A federal study concluded that slowing the ships down near the whales will cost shipping companies about $112 million, or less than one percent of the $340 billion East Coast shipping industry income.


I love this next one:
The group even suggested that if large ships went faster through the whales' habitat, the chance of a collision would be lower.

"A quickly moving vessel will pass through the area quickly, and exposure will be small," the shipping council wrote in a document challenging the limits. "A slowly moving vessel will take longer to pass through the area, exposure will be greater, and the whale will have longer to surface or move in a way that increases jeopardy."

In response to the group's theory, NOAA's Lecky said: "Would you speed through a school zone?"


And here, we see the continued effect of this administration on the scientists who are trying to do the right thing.  We have seen this over and over when it comes to environmental issues.
Rep. Henry Waxman said the long, drawn-out process within OMB and Vice President Dick Cheney's office is demoralizing career government scientists.

"I think many of the scientists who work for the government are very frustrated, and scientists outside of government are astounded to see the scientific method so abused by this administration. There's been a politicization of science to either ignore the science, rewrite it, or to suppress it," said Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Waxman said the Bush administration thinks the "science shouldn't bind them. They're going to do what industry wants."



Got to go and wipe the blood leaking out of my eyeballs now.  Save the whales, dude.
The Environmental Protection Agency agreed to weaken an important part of its new smog requirements after being told at the last minute that President Bush preferred a less stringent approach, according to government documents.

The memos and documents indicate that EPA officials had wanted to make the public welfare standard more stringent than the health standard, although still not as protective as some scientists had recommended.

But the White House insisted on making both standards identical, according to the documents. When EPA officials balked, the issue went to Bush, who sided with his budget office.

The White House defended Bush's action.

"This is not a weakening of regs (regulations) or standards," White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Friday. "But it was an effort to make the standards consistent. There's no question we have an interest in how federal regs impact communities."


"Never before has a president personally intervened at the 11th hour, exercising political power at the expense of the law and science, to force EPA to accept weaker air quality standards than the agency chief's expert scientific judgment had led him to adopt," said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private advocacy group. "It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference."



I've been whining about GWB's record on the environment since his 2002 State of the Union address in which he proposed the ironically named Clear Skies legislation which "reduced" pollution levels by allowing industry to police themselves, effectively destroying the Clean Air Act .  I have refused to watch any SotU speech since.

Let's just take a look at the environmental records for the top three potential presidents (from the League of Conservation Voters):

Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton
John McCain


Any questions?
Once again, we see the damage done by GWB appointee, Julie MacDonald, is slowly being fixed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday reversed seven rulings that denied endangered species increased protection, after an investigation found the actions were tainted by political pressure from a former senior Interior Department official.

In a letter to Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia., the agency acknowledged that the actions had been "inappropriately influenced" and that "revising the seven identified decisions is supported by scientific evidence and the proper legal standards."

and

The rulings came under scrutiny last spring after an Interior Department inspector general concluded that agency scientists were being pressured to alter their findings on endangered species by Julie MacDonald, then a deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service.

MacDonald resigned her position last May.



I may or may not have posted Ms. Macdonald's previous works, but there are many.  Here are a few:


JM continually rejects scientific advice

MacDonald said she does not make the decision on whether to federally protect a species, because the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service has that responsibility. But she said she had made her feelings clear in an array of documents; overruled scientists' conclusions in areas where she has authority, such as designating critical habitat; and mocked rank-and-file employees' recommendations.

and

In several instances, MacDonald wrote sarcastic comments in the margins of the documents, questioning why scientists were portraying a species' condition as so bleak. When scientists raised the possibility that a proposed road might degrade the greater sage grouse's habitat, which is scattered through 11 Western states, MacDonald wrote: "Has nothing to do with sage grouse. This belongs in a treatise on 'Why roads are bad'?"

and

Before issuing that memo, MacDonald changed how the agency characterized the threats facing the species. Staff scientists wrote in a summary that "both documents clearly identify current and projected threats to the species, including mortality and habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation. We believe further evaluation of the extent of leasing and current and projected oil and gas development is necessary."

MacDonald eliminated the reference to energy leases and added: "The identified threats are speculative, and neither document provides substantial scientific information supporting the speculation."



Call for Investigation into Julie MacDonald

While the Endangered Species Act requires that decisions be made solely on the basis of the best available science, MacDonald, an engineer with no biological training, reversed numerous scientific findings without any biological justification and in some cases directly changed the documents herself.
 


Considering the speed at which these things are managed, it will take years to undo even a fraction of the damage that this woman has done to the ESA. 
Global warming is back on the menu!


The majority said the agency (the EPA, eb) must tie its rationale more closely to the Clean Air Act.

"EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," Stevens said. He was joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and the court's swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The lawsuit was filed by 12 states and 13 environmental groups that had grown frustrated by the Bush administration's inaction on global warming.

In his dissent, Roberts focused on the issue of standing, whether a party has the right to file a lawsuit.




Even better, the Supreme Court ruled against Duke Energy:

The Supreme Court gave a boost Monday to a federal clean air initiative aimed at forcing utilities to install pollution control equipment on aging coal-fired power plants.

In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled against Duke Energy Corp. in a lawsuit brought by the Clinton administration, part of a massive enforcement effort targeting more than a dozen utilities.

Most companies settled with the government, but several Clinton-era cases involving more than two dozen power plants in the South and the Midwest are still pending. The remaining suits demand fines for past pollution that if levied in full would run into billions of dollars.

The justices ruled that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, overstepped its authority by implicitly invalidating Environmental Protection Agency regulations in a way that favored Duke. The case now returns to the lower courts.
In the next decade, I would like to look back at February 2007 as the beginning of a new push in the US toward protecting our planet.  In the past week, we have seen the following:

Around this time last year, a study was undertaken in order to determine whether or not polar bears should be given some type of endangered status.  I'm happy to see that the Secretary of the Interior is asking to list polar bears as a threatened species.

CNN) -- Polar bears may be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act because of a loss of habitat that jeopardizes their survival, the Interior secretary said Wednesday.

"Polar bears are one of nature's ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the world's harshest environments," said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne in a teleconference with reporters.

"But we are concerned the polar bears' habitat may literally be melting," he said.

After a public comment period and additional study, the Department of the Interior will make a final decision on the polar bear's status in 12 months.

The announcement by the Bush administration comes in response to a lawsuit filed by three conservation groups, who sued the Department of the Interior in an effort to protect the polar bear from the effects of global warming.


I would really like to see the science of Global Warming get a foothold in the administration this way.  However,

Kempthorne said the proposal to consider polar bears threatened involved the receding sea ice that the animals use for hunting. While he acknowledged that the melting ice is the result of climate change, Kempthorne stressed that the broader aspects of global warming are beyond the scope of the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that enforces it.


More at the article.


I think, however sad it may be, that the fact that polar bears are attractive and well-loved species may help this country push our way into curbing greenhouse emissions more than all of the increases in childhood asthma, allergies, and emphysema put together.  You go, polar bears!  Save our planet with your deceivingly cuddly good looks!  :)

Take a look at some of these email responses to the article.
I have been hearing a lot of talk about what the new Democratic Congress is going to work on as their initial priorities.  Most of what I have been hearing has centered around the following:


  • Iraq foreign policy

  • Korea foreign ploicy

  • stem cell research

  • immigration reform

  • budget rules

  • ethics reform

  • education



Has everyone forgotten what the Bush administration has done to our environmental policies?  How they're destroying the Clean Air Act?  How they've been working toward drilling in the ANWR?  How they've become oblivious to real science, especially concerning global warming?  And what about the new rules governing roads into pristine forested areas?  Also, and now I'm just being crazy here, perhaps we should consider ratifying the Kyoto Protocol?

Look at this record!  I'm just saying.


EDIT:  Hey, look!  Someone agrees with me!
Polar bears may get endangered status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that protection may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act, and began a review process to consider if the bears should be listed.

The agency will seek information about population distribution, habitat, effects of climate change on the bears and their prey, potential threats from development, contaminants and poaching during the next 60 days.

This could bode well for much of the Alaskan wildlife.  I'll be keeping an eye out for the decision.


If the polar bear were listed as a threatened species, federal regulatory agencies would be required to consider how their decisions affect polar bears.

A listing could affect industries seeking permission to release greenhouse gases or decisions such as setting fuel economy standards for vehicles, Siegel said.



Keep the faith!

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