WASHINGTON — Top environmental regulators for four Republican presidents told Congress on Wednesday what many Republican lawmakers won't: Action is needed on global warming.
In a congressional hearing organized to undermine Republican opposition to President Barack Obama's environmental proposals, Senate Democrats asked the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency for Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to discuss the risks from climate change and what should be done about it. Some Republicans dispute the science of climate change and have worked to unravel Obama's steps to address it.
Action on Capitol Hill — where even a bland, bipartisan energy efficiency bill couldn't get passed in May — has been in a deep freeze.
"We have a scientific consensus around this issue. We also need a political consensus," said Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and first EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, who resigned her post after disagreeing with the White House's direction on pollution rules.
Whitman was joined by William Ruckelshaus, the nation's first EPA administrator under President Richard Nixon, William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, and Lee Thomas, who was administrator under Reagan.
The former administrators told lawmakers global warming was similar to serious environmental issues they confronted, such as industrial pollution, dangerous pesticides or water contamination. But tackling those issues enjoyed broad public support.
"There are Republicans that believe the climate is changing and humans have a role to play. They just need some political cover," Whitman said before the hearing.