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How Tailpipes Once Convinced EPA To Tackle Carbon Dioxide

A detailed series on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency running this week in The Philadelphia Inquirer includes new information about how the agency had initially decided to regulate carbon dioxide.

In December 2007, one of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's top deputies emailed the White House a long-awaited rule that spelled out EPA's rationale and approach for regulating CO2 emissions. But the White House refused to open the email and 6 months later the agency issued a much weaker rule that essentially took no action. What was in the draft? Aside from EPA officials, only a handful of U.S. Senators have seen the document. The Inquirer has this to report:

According to confidential records reviewed by The Inquirer, Johnson cited strong evidence: rises in sea level, extreme hot and cold days, ecosystem changes, melting glaciers, and more. Minor doubts about long-term effects, he wrote, were not enough to alter his conclusion.

Two sentences in Johnson's draft stood out. In sum: The U.S. emits more greenhouse gases from cars than most countries do from all pollution sources. This fact is so compelling that it alone supports the administrator's finding.

The story cites four previous (and Republican) EPA chiefs who think Johnson, with science on his side, shouldn't have backed down. But Johnson does get glowing praise from James Connaughton, the top environmental adviser in the White House. "He was a shining star from the outset," Connaughton told The Inquirer. "He has done as we would have expected and hoped."