A Cautious Man
June 27, 2007
She Had One Last Chance to Make it Real …
… and gave it up. I’m referring to Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and prior to that the former Governor of New Jersey. In today’s installment of the Washington Post’s series on how Vice President Cheney has operated, Ms. Whitman is supposedly “coming clean” about her decision to resign as head of the EPA -

It was Cheney's insistence on easing air pollution controls, not the personal reasons she cited at the time, that led Christine Todd Whitman to resign as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, she said in an interview that provides the most detailed account so far of her departure.

~ snip ~

Whitman, then head of the EPA, was on vacation with her family in Colorado when her cellphone rang. The vice president was on the line, and he was clearly irked.

Why was the agency dragging its feet on easing pollution rules for aging power and oil refinery plants?, Cheney wanted to know. An industry that had contributed heavily to the Bush-Cheney campaign was clamoring for change, and the vice president told Whitman that she "hadn't moved it fast enough," she recalled.

Whitman protested, warning Cheney that the administration had to proceed cautiously. It was August 2001, just seven months into the first term. We need to "document this according to the books," she said she told him, "so we don't look like we are ramrodding something through. Because it's going to court."

But the vice president's main concern was getting it done fast, she said, and "doing it in a way that didn't hamper industry."

At issue was a provision of the Clean Air Act known as the New Source Review, which requires older plants that belch millions of tons of smog and soot each year to install modern pollution controls when they are refurbished in a way that increases emissions.

Industry officials complained to the White House that even when they had merely performed routine maintenance and repairs, the Clinton administration hit them with violations and multimillion-dollar lawsuits. Cheney's energy task force ordered the EPA to reconsider the rule.

~ snip ~

Sitting through Cheney's task force meetings, Whitman had been stunned by what she viewed as an unquestioned belief that EPA's regulations were primarily to blame for keeping companies from building new power plants. "I was upset, mad, offended that there seemed to be so much head-nodding around the table," she said.

Whitman said she had to fight "tooth and nail" to prevent Cheney's task force from handing over the job of reforming the New Source Review to the Energy Department, a battle she said she won only after appealing to White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. This was an environmental issue with major implications for air quality and health, she believed, and it shouldn't be driven by a task force primarily concerned with increasing production.

~ snip ~

Cheney had a clear mandate from the president on all things energy-related, she said, and while she could take her case directly to Bush, "you leave and the vice president's still there. So together, they would then shape policy."

What happened next was "a perfect example" of that, she said.

The EPA sent rule revisions to White House officials. The read-back was that they weren't happy and "wanted something that would be more pro-industry," she said.

The end result, which she said was written at the direction of the White House and announced in August 2003, vastly broadened the definition of routine maintenance. It allowed some of the nation's dirtiest plants to make major modifications without installing costly new pollution controls.

By that time, Whitman had already announced her resignation, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. But the real reason, she said, was the new rule.

"I just couldn't sign it," she said. "The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."

A federal appeals court has since found that the rule change violated the Clean Air Act. In their ruling, the judges said that the administration had redefined the law in a way that could be valid "only in a Humpty-Dumpty world."

Writing over at Blue Jersey, Xpatriated Texan points out that it’s hard to tell whether she is telling the truth now, and was lying then, or vice versa.

But, my problem with Whitman is more basic. Remember, she was the former governor of our fair State of New Jersey. These pollution reduction rules have a MAJOR impact on the quality of life here. New Jersey is aggressively working to clean up its air, within its own borders. Nevertheless, the prevailing winds bring the discharge from Midwestern coal plants and other polluters over into our air. Only a Federal solution can protect us from those dirty discharges. And, Whitman was in the perfect position to make it happen.

Instead, she gave in to the Vice President and the rest of the Administration time and time again. And, finally, when she decided to resign she had ONE LAST CHANCE to do something, to try and protect our air. She could have announced that she was resigning on principle, because she could not support the Administration’s degradation of the environment. That could have been a powerful statement, to support cleaner air.

Instead, she went away quietly. Basically, she betrayed everyone in New Jersey, just like she betrayed those workers at Ground Zero after 9-11.

I’ve got no more use for Christie Whitman and her mealy-mouthed excuses.

June 26, 2007
Time Slips Away, ...
Once again, we've neglected this space. At least this time, it's been busy here lately. The Cautious Daughter graduated from High School, and we've been planning the getaway to college (and our own getaway after we take her there). Maybe I should write about that ...

As usual, I have been just sitting and reading, or viewing, some absolutely stunning things. Tonight, I watched Ann Coulter with Chris Matthews, and she was even more hate-filled than usual. Sure, Matthews sand-bagged her by having Elizabeth Edwards call in, and ask Ms. Coulter if she could avoid the personal attacks. Ms. Coulter (predictably) deliberately restated that as a request to stop writing, and showed some of the usual vileness. In addition, at the end a Barack Obama supporter asked her why she would characterize Obama as "godless", and she went off on a rant about the church Obama attends. Funny, but I can't recall ever reading about any church that Ms. Coulter actually attends. She seems to be making a good living being some sort of "Christian" commentator, but it's not clear how that carries over to her off-hours.

In any event, that's the kind of hypocrisy that really bugs me. Maybe I should write more often ...


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