John Broder looks back today at the Obama Administration’s decision to delay ozone standards. As has been reported several times before, he finds the meddling hands of Cass Sunstein and Chief of Staff Bill Daley. At least Sunstein, the head of OIRA, has some tenuous connection to regulations, if not science and the environment. But if you thought that it makes no sense for a White House Chief of Staff to be involved in ozone regulation, well, you’re right:
The decision pitted Ms. (EPA Administrator Lisa) Jackson, a Princeton-trained chemical engineer and self-described “New Orleans girl,” against the White House chief of staff, William M. Daley, a son and brother of bare-knuckled Chicago mayors who was brought in to help repair relations with business and Congress [...]
Ms. Jackson knew that standard would cause political heartburn at the White House, so before submitting it she met with Mr. Daley at least three times in June to try to deal with any concerns. Mr. Daley, rightly sensing the uproar from business and local governments at the cost of meeting such a standard, sharply questioned the costs and burdens as well as the timing of the new rule but never explicitly asked her to hold off or pull back [...]
Against all this, there was no one lobbying strongly within the White House for the tougher standard. Carol M. Browner, a former E.P.A. administrator who had served as the White House coordinator for energy and environmental policy, left earlier this year as Mr. Daley was taking over because she sensed those issues were taking a back seat to economic and political concerns.
Mr. Daley abolished her job, leaving no one in the current White House who speaks as forcefully on environmental issues as she did.
So Daley ran interference on Jackson before even getting the decision to the President, and he knee-capped the White House of its environmental advisors so nobody the President trusted would have his ear after the fact. The coup de grace here comes in a meeting with the head of American Lung Association, a childhood friend of Daley’s. By this time, Daley had already taken a meeting with business lobbyists, and he clearly just parroted them:
Charles D. Connor, president of the American Lung Association and a childhood friend of Mr. Daley’s, opened by discussing the adverse health impacts of ozone. He introduced Monica Kraft, a pulmonologist at Duke University and the president-elect of the American Thoracic Society.
“I told them that we thought a 70 p.p.b. standard was appropriate for health reasons and laid out the statistics on deaths associated with progressively higher levels of ozone,” Dr. Kraft said. She emphasized the damage smog does to the lungs of even healthy young children.
Mr. Daley listened politely, then asked, “What are the health impacts of unemployment?” It was a question straight out of the industry playbook.
After that, Daley said “Fuck the polls” in reaction to data showing the public supported clean air laws. And when he was shown modeling confirming that there was no difference in employment and economic growth with tighter ozone standards, Daley would only say “it’s a very difficult economic time.” I wonder if he were told that adapting factories to higher ozone standards would be an economic stimulus, as well as the extra cash people have in their pockets because they don’t have to take their kids to the doctor all the time for asthma and breathing difficulties.
Daley still works at the White House. I know that when he was stripped from the “Chief of Staff” part of the Chief of Staff job, people gloated that the corporate types and the banksters lost this round. That really doesn’t face reality. Daley was never a Chief of Staff, really. With David Plouffe and Pete Rouse and Valerie Jarrett around there were always enough people to be the gatekeepers for the President and run meetings and manage day-to-day operations and massage Congress. Daley was brought in as a fixer. He fixes parking tickets. He listens to exactly what corporate America wants, and he goes out and gets it done. He’s their man inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And he’s still equipped to do that. As Broder writes, Daley “remains the administration’s conduit for business interests.”