As Obama moves closer to his perception of the center, he moves further from the environmental base that had placed their hopes and dreams in him. Over the summer, he ended up in a heated battle with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson over a proposed Ozone rule that he was set to weaken against her wishes. According to the New York Times, it was not pretty.
The summons from the president came without warning the Thursday before Labor Day. As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good. What she did not see coming was a rare public rebuke the president was about to deliver by rejecting her proposal to tighten the national standard for smog.
The half-hour meeting in the Oval Office was not a negotiation; the president had decided against ratcheting up the ozone rule because of the cost and the uncertainty it would impose on industry and local governments.
The environmental movement was left asking whether or not Obama could be trusted with their green dreams. After the dust settled, things seemed to return back to normal as the EPA moved forward on their agenda, including proposed rules like the extremely controversial (and very costly) Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule.
Unfortunately for the EPA, President Obama aimed his sights on weakening that rule as well. Someone wasn’t having it.
On Thursday, environmental blogger Frank O’Donnell reported that he had been “reliably informed” of a recent spat taking place between the EPA and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB).
According to the source, OMB is putting the screws to the EPA on the MACT rule. Specifically, they’d like to get the EPA to be in compliance with a standard that was proposed by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) which is significantly weaker than the current rule in relation to its caps on mercury emissions among other things.
We are informed reliably that the White House Office of Management and Budget, at the behest of the coal-burning electric power industry, is now pushing the EPA to weaken its mercury pollution control requirements in its upcoming toxic pollution rule for power plants. Power companies could emit almost 20% more mercury under the dirty power industry scheme being promoted by OMB bean counters.
Apparently it’s a true story because it was further confirmed by Inside EPA/Environmental NewsStand (Paywalled) who also reported on an “informed source” telling the EPA’s secrets:
Despite the push from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), one informed source says that EPA remains dug in on its proposed 1.2 pounds per trillion British thermal unit (Btu) limit for mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and is unwilling to adopt EEI’s proposed weaker limit of 1.4 pounds per trillion Btu. Environmentalists are also vowing to fight any attempt to soften the air toxics rule’s mercury limit.
Looks like this “informed source” doesn’t want the EPA to give up so easily on destroying the economy and targeting industries.
So who is this magnanimous champion of EPA righteousness that has declared that the OMB shan’t win the day? Personally, I think it’s Lisa Jackson.
Here’s how I see it playing out:
- Lisa Jackson gets irritated with the OMB’s meddling in her business (ironic I know)
- She feels that their paltry concerns about things like “economic stability and jobs” are interfering with her ability to save the planet.
- She looks at her options and realizes that the only way to deal with this is to turn public opinion against any changes by squealing about the OMB’s plans and the EPA’s heroic defiance.
- The only problem is, this would mean getting in trouble with her boss, since it would be his base that gets upset at his OMB for doing this. And it’s an election year for pete’s sake!
- But wait a second…her boss (Obama if you haven’t figured it out) had zero issue with leaving her high and dry when he pulled the rug out from under her on the Ozone Rule over the summer! Revenge is best served cold and there’s no global warming in the forecast today baby!
From there, it was a simple matter of getting one her media/coalition liaisons at the EPA to leak the story. The hope would be that these events would rile up the base to hold Obama’s feet to the fire so he’d back off his recent attempts to soften the impact of the MACT rule in its current incarnation in the hopes of making it less politically toxic in an election year.
Thinks she’s not up to it? Consider this quote from the same New York Times article about the Ozone Rule debacle:
The ozone decision was jarring because it was wholly unexpected. Ms. Jackson considered resigning but soon abandoned the idea as a futile gesture.
Many of the president’s supporters remain unsettled, fearing that the ozone decision meant he was abandoning environmental issues. (emphasis mine)
This election is going to be a test for Barack Obama. In 2008, he could run on whatever he wanted and claim whatever he wished because he had no authority to do anything at that time. Everything was blue sky. Now, as President, his decisions carry consequences. He can’t say one thing and do another anymore, without expecting a reaction from the people to whom he had broken his promise.
Things aren’t going to get prettier from here.