The Bush administration's record on the environment is so abysmal that even a former Bush EPA official had difficulty defending it today.
Environmentalists blasted the administration's policies at a hearing called by the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, convened to highlight Bush's use of midnight regulations -- proposals made in the waning days of a presidency when political consequences are minimal -- to ram through rule changes on behalf of business interests.
Then, Jeff Holmstead, the lone witness called by the GOP minority, was given a chance to speak.
Holmstead, once the head of the Air office at the EPA and now a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani, gamely attempted to defend his own record, touting an improvement in air quality in his opening statement. But hostile questioning put him on the defensive. The timing of the last-minute proposals, he said, was simply due to human responsiveness to deadlines. And as for global warming, other countries "have not achieved anything either."
Finally, Holmstead gave up. "Maybe we should have a little more polite discussion," he said.
Of the 39 rules proposed in the final days of the president's term, 20 pare back environmental restrictions. (ProPublica has a tally going here.)
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), the select committee chair, closed the meeting promising to "shine a light" on the Bush administration's activities.
"We are going to be on their case," he said. "We are going to be there every single minute."