Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Corruption in writing....Rove is Oil Buttboy

EPA Rule Loosened After Oil Chief's Letter to Rove
The White House says the executive's appeal had no role in changing a measure to protect groundwater. Critics call it a political payoff.
By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Times Staff Writers
June 13, 2006

WASHINGTON — A rule designed by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep groundwater clean near oil drilling sites and other construction zones was loosened after White House officials rejected it amid complaints by energy companies that it was too restrictive and after a well-connected Texas oil executive appealed to White House senior advisor Karl Rove.

The new rule, which took effect Monday, came after years of intense industry pressure, including court battles and behind-the-scenes agency lobbying. But environmentalists vowed Monday that the fight was not over, distributing internal White House documents that they said portrayed the new rule as a political payoff to an industry long aligned with the Republican Party and President Bush.

In 2002, a Texas oilman and longtime Republican activist, Ernest Angelo, wrote a letter to Rove complaining that an early version of the rule was causing many in the oil industry to "openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity."

Rove responded by forwarding the letter to top White House environmental advisors and scrawling a handwritten note directing an aide to talk to those advisors and "get a response ASAP."

Rove later wrote to Angelo, assuring him that there was a "keen awareness" within the administration of addressing not only environmental issues but also the "economic, energy and small business impacts" of the rule.

Environmentalists pointed to the Rove correspondence as evidence that the Bush White House, more than others, has mixed politics with policy decisions that are traditionally left to scientists and career regulators. At the time, Rove oversaw the White House political office and was directing strategy for the 2002 midterm elections.

Angelo had been mayor of Midland, Texas, when Bush ran an oil firm there. He is also a longtime hunting partner of Rove's. The two men first worked together when Angelo managed Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign in Texas.

In an interview Monday, Angelo welcomed the new groundwater rule and said his letter might have made a difference in how it was written. But he waved off environmentalists' questions about Rove's involvement.

"I'm sure that his forwarding my letter to people that were in charge of it might have had some impression on them,
" Angelo said. "It seems to me that it was a totally proper thing to do. I can't see why anybody's upset about it, except of course that it was effective."

Asked why he wrote to Rove and not the Environmental Protection Agency or to some other official more directly associated with the matter, Angelo replied:
"Karl and I have been close friends for 25 years. So, why wouldn't I write to him? He's the guy I know best in the administration."

White House spokesmen said Monday that the rule was revised as part of the federal government's standard rule-making process. They said the EPA was simply directed by White House budget officials to make the rule comply with requirements laid out by Congress in a sweeping new energy law passed last year.

The issue has been a focus of lobbying by the oil and gas industry for years, ever since Clinton administration regulators first announced their intent to require special EPA permits for construction sites smaller than five acres, including oil and gas drilling sites, as a way to discourage water pollution.

Energy executives, who have long complained of being stifled by federal regulations limiting drilling and exploration, sought and received a delay in that permit requirement in 2003. Eventually, Congress granted a permanent exemption that was written into the 2005 energy legislation.

The EPA rule issued Monday adds fine print to that broad exception in ways that critics, including six members of the Senate, say exceeds what Congress intended.

For example, the new rule generally exempts sediment — pieces of dirt and other particles that can gum up otherwise clear streams — from regulations governing runoff that may flow from oil and gas production or construction sites.

Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), who joined five Democrats in objecting to the rule, wrote in March that there was nothing in the energy law suggesting that such an exclusion of sediment "had even entered the mind of any member of Congress as it considered the Energy Policy Act of 2005." Moreover, Jeffords wrote, the rule violated the intentions of Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act 19 years ago.

White House and administration officials disagreed.

At the EPA, Assistant Administrator Benjamin H. Grumbles said the rule responded directly to congressional action. He cited a letter from Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, endorsing it. He added that the rule still allows states to regulate pollution, and that it continues to regulate sediment that contains "toxic" ingredients.

Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for another senior lawmaker, Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Monday that the rule was designed to hold oil companies accountable for putting toxic substances in the soil, but not for dirt that results from storms.

"When it rains, storm water gets muddy, regardless of whether there's an oil well in the neighborhood,
" Miller said. "Congress told EPA to do this, and now they have. If there's oil in the water, a producer has to clean it up. If it's nature, they don't."

Page 2 at .... http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-rove13jun13,0,6998893.story?coll=la-home-headlines


Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

It's always something with those people! Drilling in ANWAR, selling our industries overseas. The Bush Administration has turned the White House into one giant dispenser for graft of all stripes. At this rate - it will take 100 years to clean up the mess they will leave - if indeed it is possible to clean up certain aspects of the destruction at all.

11:32 PM  

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