The Bush Administration’s newest tactic for policymaking is to ignore emails.
The New York Times reports today that White House officials simply refused to open an email from the EPA last year because they knew it contained a policy recommendation they didn’t like — part of the Administration’s on-going battle with scientists at the EPA over global warming issues.
The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.
Instead of officially acknowledging the email and responding to it in a normal bureaucratic manner, the White House instead launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to pressure the EPA to drop the recommendation’s essential conclusions.
Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”
The White House lost its battle in the Supreme Court. It’s stonewalling efforts by lawmakers on Capitol Hill to investigate the policy-making process. And now there’s evidence that it is not only rejecting but even ignoring efforts by the EPA to adhere to a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
At least one EPA official quit over the email incident.
White House pressure to ignore or edit the E.P.A.’s climate-change findings led to the resignation of one agency official earlier this month: Jason Burnett, the associate deputy administrator. Mr. Burnett, a political appointee with broad authority over climate-change regulations, said in an interview that he had resigned because “no more constructive work could be done” on the agency’s response to the Supreme Court.
He added, “The next administration will have to face what this one did not.”
Before he left for Washington for the first time, former President Harry Truman got a piece of memorable advice: “Work hard, keep your mouth shut, and answer your mail.”
Maybe President Bush never got that same advice.