September 27, 2008

Bush Energy Nomination a Slap to Environment, Whitehouse Says

President Nominates Cheney Aide to Key Energy Department Post

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed outrage today over President Bush’s move to nominate to a senior Department of Energy position an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who has played a leading role in Administration efforts to undercut environmental regulations.

F. Chase Hutto III was nominated Thursday to serve as assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the Energy Department. During his tenure on the Vice President’s staff, he has played a leading role in a number of environmental policy decisions that weakened protections for endangered species and human health and blocked state efforts to address global warming.

“President Bush could not have sent a clearer signal of his disdain for environment and science-based decisionmaking,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). “In the few weeks that remain in this Congress, I hope the Senate will leave this nomination on the cutting room floor where it belongs. The Energy Department is the wrong place for anyone like Mr. Hutto.”

The Washington Post reported in August that Hutto pushed to water down commonsense regulations on commercial shipping traffic on the East Coast that could endanger North Atlantic right whales. Right whales are one of the most endangered species in the world, with only an estimated 300 remaining. The National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) submitted a rule to require that ships slow down when they pass within 30 nautical miles of several East Coast ports during whale migration season to avoid ship strikes that kill and injury the whales. Hutto questioned the scientific evidence supporting the rule, and the White House has planned to issue a weaker version that would expire after five years. The Post also reported that Hutto argued that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not impose stricter limits on mercury emissions, which EPA scientists have determined pose a serious health risk, particularly to children and pregnant women.

Hutto also participated in internal White House discussions seeking ways to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which recognized the EPA’s authority to regulate global warming pollution. A report by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming also found that Hutto acted in the White House as a voice for the energy industry, which had a clear interest in blocking tougher restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution. Last winter, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied a request by California, Rhode Island, and other states for a waiver that would permit them to strengthen their regulations against carbon emissions.

Hutto currently serves as deputy assistant to the Vice President for domestic policy. He has served as a team leader for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign recount effort in Florida, and worked on the staff of Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI)’s Judiciary subcommittee on immigration before taking a role a senior policy advisor at the Energy Department when Abraham became Energy Secretary.

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