Reagan, Nixon, and Bush Officials Push Congress to Act on Global Warming

Co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling William Reilly
National Journal
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Jason Plautz
June 18, 2014, 9:17 a.m.

Cab­in­et mem­bers from four Re­pub­lic­an ad­min­is­tra­tions Wed­nes­day made a plea for fed­er­al ac­tion to ad­dress cli­mate change, cit­ing new evid­ence that pub­lic opin­ion is shift­ing in fa­vor of it.

The of­fi­cials, all former heads of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency, said there is a siz­able fac­tion with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party that would sup­port cli­mate ac­tion, but only if they’re backed by vo­cal pub­lic sup­port.

“There are a lot of Re­pub­lic­ans that do be­lieve that the cli­mate is chan­ging and hu­mans play a role in that,” said Christine Todd Whit­man, who led EPA un­der Pres­id­ent George W. Bush. “They just need some cov­er. And if they hear from the pub­lic that this is an is­sue of im­port­ance to them “¦ you’re go­ing to find more and more of them speak­ing out.”

Whit­man was one of four Re­pub­lic­an EPA chiefs to testi­fy this morn­ing be­fore the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, joined by Wil­li­am D. Ruck­elshaus (who served un­der Pres­id­ents Nix­on and Re­agan), Lee M. Thomas (Re­agan), and Wil­li­am K. Re­illy (George H.W. Bush).

The cur­rent Re­pub­lic­an Party line casts skep­ti­cism on the sci­ence link­ing hu­man activ­ity to glob­al warm­ing and staunchly op­poses le­gis­lat­ive or ad­min­is­trat­ive car­bon caps.

But in a roundtable with re­port­ers, all four former of­fi­cials re­it­er­ated the need for ac­tion on cli­mate change, re­gard­less of the polit­ic­al situ­ation in Con­gress. And, cit­ing an NBC News/Wall Street Journ­al poll that found 61 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans back ac­tion to com­bat cli­mate change, they pre­dicted the polit­ic­al dam would break.

“When all of these en­vir­on­ment­al is­sues have been ad­dressed suc­cess­fully in the past, it’s where there’s strong pub­lic sup­port for ac­tion,” said Ruck­elshaus, who was the first head of EPA, un­der Nix­on. “That [poll] is in­dic­at­ive of what seems to be a shift in pub­lic opin­ion on that, and if that turns in­to a de­mand for ac­tion, something will hap­pen.”

Ruck­elshaus said that was the situ­ation Nix­on faced be­fore he cre­ated EPA in 1970. Even though the pres­id­ent hadn’t entered the White House with the en­vir­on­ment atop his agenda, he was “clearly moved by pub­lic opin­ion” that showed Amer­ic­ans wanted to clean up their wa­ter and air.

While Whit­man said Con­gress was the “prefer­able vehicle by which to make things hap­pen,” she praised Pres­id­ent Obama for mov­ing to reg­u­late car­bon di­ox­ide from power plants uni­lat­er­ally.

For more evid­ence of mo­mentum, all four poin­ted to work be­ing done at the loc­al and state levels. The flex­ib­il­ity un­der the power-plant rule that will al­low states to look to cap-and-trade pro­grams, clean en­ergy, and oth­er meth­ods to meet emis­sions goals would help move that for­ward, Re­illy said.

“Lead­er­ship in those states that take it will show the way for the coun­try as a whole and for oth­er states that it’s pos­sible to do that without shut­ting the eco­nomy down or mak­ing every­one so mad you can’t func­tion,” he said. “It’s just not true that if you shift your at­ten­tion from res­ist­ing the rule to try­ing to fig­ure out ways tot make it work, then we’ll all make a lot of pro­gress.”

Wheth­er the mes­sage from the re­tired ad­min­is­trat­ors reaches the less polit­ic­ally shiel­ded le­gis­lat­ors re­mains to be seen. Some law­makers’ open­ing state­ments at the hear­ing — where dozens of coal miners filled chairs in the audi­ence to protest the cli­mate plan — had a fa­mil­i­ar ring.

“Re­cently, many of the ex­treme weath­er claims be­ing made were found to be without mer­it,” said rank­ing mem­ber Dav­id Vit­ter of Louisi­ana. “What has come true is the eco­nom­ic calam­ity that be­falls na­tions that head down the path Pres­id­ent Obama uni­lat­er­ally se­lec­ted for Amer­ica.”

What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
6 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

FUNERAL FOR ISRAELI LEADER
Obama Compares Peres to ‘Giants of the 20th Century’
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Speaking at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, President Obama "compared Peres to 'other giants of the 20th century' such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who 'find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment.'" Among the 6,000 mourners at the service was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama called Abbas's presence a sign of the "unfinished business of peace" in the region.

Source:
×