Republican EPA chiefs: Act on global warming

WASHINGTON — Top environmental regulators for four Republican presidents told Congress on Wednesday what many Republican lawmakers won’t: Action is needed on global warming.

In a congressional hearing organized to undermine Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s environmental proposals, Senate Democrats asked the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency for Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to discuss the risks from climate change and what should be done about it. Some Republicans dispute the science of climate change and have worked to unravel Obama’s steps to address it.

Action on Capitol Hill — where even a bland, bipartisan energy efficiency bill couldn’t get passed in May — has been in a deep freeze.

“We have a scientific consensus around this issue. We also need a political consensus,” said Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey Governor and first EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, who resigned her post after disagreeing with the White House’s direction on pollution rules.

Whitman was joined by William Ruckelshaus, the nation’s first EPA administrator under President Richard Nixon, William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, and Lee Thomas, who was administrator under Reagan.

The strategy by Democrats was reminiscent of other high-profile hearings on climate change that created fanfare but resulted in little action. In March, Democrats staged an all-nighter on the Senate floor to talk climate change. In 2009, former Vice President Al Gore and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparred before a House committee over climate change. Climate scientist James Hansen in 1988 told the Senate the planet is warming and pollution is to blame.

The EPA chiefs’ testimony apparently did little to bridge the divide. Coal miners packed the hearing to protest a new EPA plan to cut carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. Before any testimony, top Republicans on the Senate environmental panel said the rule would kill jobs for no environmental benefit.

That view contrasted sharply with the opinions of the four EPA administrators, who said the Obama administration had worked hard to make the proposal flexible and workable, using authority provided by Congress.

The former EPA administrators told lawmakers that global warming was similar to other serious environmental issues they confronted, such as industrial pollution, dangerous pesticides or water contamination. But tackling those issues enjoyed broad public support.

“Inherent in all of these problems was uncertain science and powerful economic interests resisting controls. The same is true of climate change,” said Ruckelshaus, who also led the agency under Reagan. “In all of the cases cited, the solutions to the problems did not result in the predicted economic and social calamity.”

The four EPA chiefs also said that they are not alone in the Republican party.

“There are Republicans that believe the climate is changing and humans have a role to play. They just need some political cover,” said Whitman, in an interview before the hearing.

Reilly was even more direct.

“There is a lot happening on climate,” he said, citing efforts by states and corporations to tackle the problem. “It’s just not happening in Washington.”

More in Local News

Child porn found in forest treehouse and Mill Creek home

Daniel Wood, 56, has been charged with two counts of possession of child pornography.

The rules: You can’t put just anything on your vanity plate

The state keeps a “banned list” of character combinations that will automatically be denied.

Driver killed in crash identified as Monroe man

Anthony Ray Vannelli Jr. died of blunt force injuries. He was 37.

Edmonds man gets nearly 14 years for murder of roommate

Derrick Crawford, 22, admitted that he shot and intended to kill 27-year-old Joshua Werner.

Motorcyclist seriously hurt in Everett hit-and-run

Police are searching for the driver and a gray Dodge Stratus with extensive front-end damage.

Masked gunman sought in shooting at house near Darrington

The suspect — a neighbor — is still at large. There were no injuries reported, but a television was hit.

‘Working together again like we did back then’ to save fish

Tribes and agencies convene to continue the fight to save salmon — in the name of Billy Frank Jr.

Sound Transit lobbies Congress to keep Lynnwood line funded

President Trump wants to cut a $1.17 billion grant. Bipartisans in Congress could preserve it.

Slide prompts closure of Whitehorse trail east of Arlington

More than two miles of the route will be closed indefinitely “due to significant earth movement.”

Most Read