WASHINGTON - Six former heads of the
Environmental Protection Agency five Republicans and one Democrat
accused the Bush administration Wednesday of neglecting global warming
and other environmental problems.
"I don't think there's a commitment in this administration," said Bill
Ruckelshaus, who was EPA's first administrator when the agency opened
its doors in 1970 under President Nixon and headed it again under
President Reagan in the 1980s.
Russell Train, who succeeded Ruckelshaus in the Nixon and Ford
administrations, said slowing the growth of "greenhouse" gases isn't
"We need leadership, and I don't think we're getting it," he said at
an EPA-sponsored symposium centered around the agency's 35th
anniversary. "To sit back and just push it away and say we'll deal
with it sometime down the road is dishonest to the people and
All of the former administrators raised their hands when EPA's current
chief, Stephen Johnson, asked whether they believe global warming is a
real problem, and again when he asked if humans bear significant blame.
Agency heads during five Republican administrations, including the
current one, criticized the Bush White House for what they described
as a failure of leadership.
Defending his boss, Johnson said the current administration has spent
$20 billion on research and technology to combat climate change after
President Bush rejected mandatory controls on carbon dioxide, the
chief gas blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
Bush also kept the United States out of the Kyoto international treaty
to reduce greenhouse gases globally, saying it would harm the U.S.
economy, after many of the accord's terms were negotiated by the
"I know from the president on down, he is committed," Johnson said.
"And certainly his charge to me was, and certainly our team has heard
it: 'I want you to accelerate the pace of environmental protection. I
want you to maintain our economic competitiveness.' And I think that's
really what it's all about."
His predecessors disagreed. Lee Thomas, Ruckelshaus's successor in the
Reagan administration, said that "if the United States doesn't deal
with those kinds of issues in a leadership role, they're not going to
get dealt with. So I'm very concerned about this country and this agency."
Bill Reilly, the EPA administrator under the first President Bush,
echoed that assessment.
"The time will come when we will address seriously the problem of
climate change, and this is the agency that's best equipped to
anticipate it," he said.
Christie Whitman, the first of three EPA administrators in the current
Bush administration, said people obviously are having "an enormous
impact" on the earth's warming.
"You'd need to be in a hole somewhere to think that the amount of
change that we have imposed on land, and the way we've handled
deforestation, farming practices, development, and what we're putting
into the air, isn't exacerbating what is probably a natural trend,"
she said. "But this is worse, and it's getting worse."
Carol Browner, who was
President Clinton's EPA administrator, said the White House and the
Congress should push legislation to establish a carbon trading program
based on a 1990 pollution trading program that helped reduce acid rain.
"If we wait for every single scientist who has a thought on the issue
of climate change to agree, we will never do anything," she said. "If
this agency had waited to completely understand the impacts of DDT,
the impacts of lead in our gasoline, there would probably still be DDT
sprayed and lead in our gasoline."
Three former administrators did not attend Wednesday's ceremony:
Mike Leavitt, now secretary of health and human services; Doug Costle,
who was in the Carter administration, and Anne Burford, a Reagan
appointee who died last year.
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