Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Whitman Denies Bush Betrayed His Promise

EPA Administrator EPA with President Geo. W. Bush WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. official on the environment rejected charges on Tuesday that President George W. Bush had undermined her by spurning her advice on global climate change.

Christine Todd Whitman, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the international community understood the new U.S. administration had an "obligation" to survey matters before coming up with its climate change stance.

Bush broke a campaign promise this month, announcing he would not seek cuts from U.S. power plants of carbon dioxide, the gas that a great majority of scientists say is a key factor in Earth's rising average temperatures.

"He is very committed to that discussion," Whitman said of Bush on the ABC television program "Good Morning America." She spoke after the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that a week before Bush broke his pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions, she had pressed him to demonstrate his commitment.

The Post quoted a March 6 memo in which she reportedly warned Bush to demonstrate his commitment to cutting greenhouse gases or risk undermining U.S. standing 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.

Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a long-time advocate of addressing global warming, was quoted by the Post as saying the administration had undermined Whitman in a way that might leave her "gun shy" and reluctant to press too hard for U.S. participation in aninternational global warming pact.

"I don't believe that," she said when asked about Kerry's comment and any undermining of U.S.credibility in the ABC interview.

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.

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.