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Bush’s EPA Chief Urged Regulating Carbon, Letter Shows

Former President George W. Bush’s top environmental regulator urged him in 2008 to limit greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for climate change, according to a letter released by a Democratic lawmaker.

Stephen Johnson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told Bush he was obligated to declare gases from power plants, cars and other sources a danger to the public, according to the Jan. 31, 2008, letter released today by Representative Henry Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Bush’s EPA chief wrote that “the latest climate change science doesn’t permit” the administration to declare that carbon isn’t a threat or that more research is needed.

Waxman released the letter as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson prepared to testify tomorrow before a House energy panel hearing examining President Barack Obama’s decision to use the EPA to impose rules on carbon emissions. Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the committee chairman, is seeking to strip the EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases and said he doubts human activity is causing global warming.

“As Administrator Johnson’s letter makes clear, both Republican and Democratic administrations have had the same view of the science: carbon emissions are a serious threat to our nation’s welfare,” Waxman said today in a letter to Upton. “I urge you to leave the science to the scientists and drop your effort to use legislation to overturn EPA’s endangerment finding.”

Johnson on Dec. 18, 2008, issued a memorandum that said carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant the agency can regulate.

‘Had His Chance’

Waxman is seeking to bolster the EPA and its carbon rules, which amount to a tax on businesses and consumers, said Sean Bonyun, an Upton spokesman. Waxman helped write a bill to limit emissions and establish a cap-and-trade program in which companies buy and sell the right to pollute. The bill passed the House in 2009 and stalled in the Senate.

“Mr. Waxman had his chance to implement a national energy tax last Congress and failed,” Bonyun said today in an e-mailed statement. “Now he is conspiring with the EPA in pursuit of a backdoor cap-and-tax scheme that will cost jobs.”

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA had authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act if the agency declares them a danger to the public. The court ordered the administration to make a decision. Bush declined to move ahead with any regulation.

Obama, who campaigned for president on a promise to cap greenhouse gases, pushed ahead with the EPA carbon regulations after Congress failed to pass legislation last year. The greenhouse-gas rules took effect on Jan. 2 and currently apply only to big polluters such as power plants and oil refineries.

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