Whitman Lobbied for U.S. Global Warming Action-Post

Washington Post reports Whitman warned Bush to demonstrate his commitment to cutting greenhouse gases or risk undermining the United States' standing among allies around the world.

Published: 27-Mar-2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A week before President George W. Bush broke his campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, his top environmental official lobbied hard for tough action on global warming, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The Post said it had obtained a March 6 memo in which Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman warned Bush to demonstrate his commitment to cutting greenhouse gases or risk undermining the United States' standing among allies around the world.

The memo, written after Whitman met with European environmental ministers in Italy, told the president that global warming was an important "credibility issue" for the United States, and that "we need to appear engaged ... and build some bona fides first."

"I would strongly recommend that you continue to recognize that global warming is a real and serious issue," Whitman said in the memo, according to the Post account.

It was sent one week before Bush announced that he would not seek a reduction in the carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's power plants, despite a campaign promise to the contrary.

DENIES BUSH BETRAYAL

The memo reveals the extent to which the former New Jersey governor lobbied the president before he made his decision.

Whitman has denied Bush had "pulled the rug out" from under her with his decision. "No, we were part of that decision," she said on CNN's "Late Edition." "We were working with the White House for the week leading up to it."

But Bush's decision, so much at odds with Whitman's earlier efforts to lobby for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, have undercut Whitman's ability to negotiate for the administration, the Post said.

"I think the administration undermined her," the paper quoted Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, as saying. "The question is being asked: Does she speak for the administration, and will she be able to enforce environmental laws and seek others where necessary?"

REMAINS INFLUENTIAL

But the White House, congressional Republicans and an aide to Whitman said the EPA chief remains an influential member of the administration despite her differences with the president over carbon dioxide emissions.

The Post quoted Whitman's spokesman as saying the memo was a confidential correspondence and she would not be willing to discuss it.

Bush's decision to reverse his campaign promise followed intense lobbying by coal and oil companies and congressional conservatives who opposed the proposal. Bush said he based his decision on concerns about energy shortages and an Energy Department report which concluded that restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions would drive up electricity costs.

In her memo, Whitman told Bush, "Mr. President, this is a credibility issue (global warming) for the U.S. in international community. It is also an issue that is resonating here, at home. We need to appear engaged."

Whitman first learned of the president's reversal on carbon dioxide emissions at a midmorning meeting with Bush at the White House, hours before he revealed his decision in a letter to four conservative senators.

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