WSJ falsely suggested high court EPA ruling was a win for Bush administration

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

In a May 15 article (subscription required) on President Bush's recent announcement that his administration will begin the process of deciding how to regulate motor vehicle pollution, The Wall Street Journal falsely suggested that an April 2 U.S. Supreme Court ruling was a victory for the Bush administration. The Journal reported that, according to "[a]dministration officials," the court ruled that "the administration has legal authority to regulate so-called greenhouse gases through the federal Clean Air Act" which "opened the door to the new regulatory initiative" announced by Bush. However, the Supreme Court actually ruled against the Bush administration on April 2, deciding that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by refusing to regulate vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, as various news outlets reported. As The New York Times noted, the administration "has maintained that it does not have the right to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, it would not use the authority."

Similarly, in a report on rising gasoline prices during the May 14 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, ABC News correspondent John Berman said that Bush "today directed federal agencies to find a way to cut gas consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years." Berman not only failed to mention that Bush's proposal came after the Supreme Court decision but also did not note that Bush's goal is based on projected, not current, consumption levels. Associated Press and Los Angeles Times articles on May 15 also noted Bush's plan to cut gas consumption without noting that it is based on projected levels.

In his May 14 announcement, Bush directly linked the April 2 Supreme Court ruling to his decision to direct the EPA and other relevant agencies to "take the first steps" to cutting gasoline consumption and reducing CO2 emissions:

BUSH: Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must take action under the Clean Air Act regarding greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. So today, I'm directing the EPA and the Department of Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture to take the first steps toward regulations that would cut gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, using my 20-in-10 plan as a starting point.

The Journal reported that Bush "ordered up new rules aimed at increasing automobile fuel efficiency" and "pledge[d] yesterday to toughen [emissions] standards." The article later suggested that the April 2 Supreme Court ruling enabled Bush to make his recent proposal, saying that "administration officials" said it "opened the door to the new regulatory initiative":

"When it comes to energy and the environment, the American people expect common sense, and they expect action," Mr. Bush said. "It makes sense to do what I proposed, and we're taking action by taking the first steps toward rules that will make our economy stronger, our environment cleaner, and our nation more secure for generations to come."

Administration officials said a recent Supreme Court ruling that the administration has legal authority to regulate so-called greenhouse gases through the federal Clean Air Act opened the door to the new regulatory initiative.

In fact, as noted by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post on April 3, the court "rebuked" the Bush administration's position in the case.

From the April 3 Los Angeles Times article:

The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for a more aggressive attack by government on global warming, which could include the first national rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new cars, trucks and power plants.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court rebuked the Bush administration and ruled that so-called greenhouse gases -- like carbon dioxide -- were air pollutants subject to federal regulation.

President Bush and his aides, allied with automakers, argued that federal officials did not have the power to set mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

From the April 3 New York Times article:

In one of its most important environmental decisions in years, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases in automobile emissions. The court further ruled that the agency could not sidestep its authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change unless it could provide a scientific basis for its refusal.

The 5-to-4 decision was a strong rebuke to the Bush administration, which has maintained that it does not have the right to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, it would not use the authority. The ruling does not force the environmental agency to regulate auto emissions, but it would almost certainly face further legal action if it failed to do so.

From the April 3 Post article:

The Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration yesterday for refusing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, siding with environmentalists in the court's first examination of the phenomenon of global warming.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by improperly declining to regulate new-vehicle emissions standards to control the pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming.

In addition, reports from the AP, the Los Angeles Times, and ABC's World News suggested that Bush's plan to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years is based on current levels of consumption. From Berman's report on high gas prices during the May 14 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

JOHN BERMAN: One of the big ripple effects maybe political. President Bush today directed federal agencies to find a way to cut gas consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

Most of the analysts I spoke with today think that say prices are nearly as high as they're going to get, but that's assuming the refining and supply situations get worked out. In either case, Charlie [Gibson, anchor], it will be a long, expensive summer.

The AP reported that according to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the process announced by Bush could help "implement the president's plan for reducing gas consumption by 20 percent over 10 years." The Los Angeles Times reported that "Bush said he took the action to meet his stated goal of reducing vehicle gasoline use by 20% over 10 years."

Berman did not mention that the April 2 Supreme Court ruling played a role in Bush's May 14 directive, while none of the three reports mentioned that Bush's reduced consumption plan is based on forecasted levels, as a May 15 New York Times article noted:

Mr. Bush began the process with an executive order directing the E.P.A., the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture to explore regulatory options to enact a proposal he announced in his State of the Union address earlier, which set a goal of reducing the projected growth of oil consumption within 10 years to a level 20 percent lower than current forecasts. Officials have expressed frustration that Congress has not enacted his plan, based on efficiency standards as well as incentives for alternative fuels, which environmentalists have harshly criticized as insufficient.

Posted In
Environment & Science
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, ABC, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight
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