Just ten years ago, George Bush, as the new vice president, became chair of Ronald Reagan’s Task Force on Regulator Relief. In fact, he pioneered the concept of a vice president who serves as a lobbyist for regulated industries in Washington.
Now It’s Dan Quayle’s turn. The vice president is on a quiet crusade to rein in federal regulation, an effort critics say is undermining the Clean Air Act, as well as a range of other environmental protections. Quayle is exerting his new-found influence through the Council on Competitiveness, a little-known cabinet-level committee that he heads. The council membership alone shows the importance President Bush attaches to it: John Sununu, White House chief of staff, Dick Thornburgh, attorney general (until his departure); Nicholas Brady, treasury secretary; Michael Boskin, Council of Economic Advisers chair; Richard Darman, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director; and Robert Mosbacher, secretary of commerce.
Quayle’s council has quietly taken on a new role as overseer of the Office of Management and Budget, rewriting proposed regulations governing recycling, pollution permits, Grand Canyon air quality, and non-environmental laws such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as leading major negotiations on wetlands protections and biotechnology controls.
This past spring, the Council re-wrote air-pollution permit standards, the first major regulation implementing the 1990 Clean Air Act. Congressional aides and environmentalists who had worked with the EPA in drafting the rule were stunned to find that the “minor permit amendments” had been changed to allow some 34,000 pollution sources to increase the amount of pollution they generate as much as they choose, merely by notifying their state that they plan to do so. If the state fails to protest in seven days, the increase becomes permanent. A requirement that permit changes be open to public review was also deleted. An April 6 memo from the Council to the EPA dictated the permit amendment changes and more than 100 others.
The Council’s pre-emptive power is so considerable that it can overrule heads of agencies like EPA administrator William Reilly.
Congressman Henry Waxman of California believes that Quayle’s operation is “flagrantly illegal.” No law gives Quayle the right to veto or undercut a pollution-control program mandated by Congress. However, there is no Congressional oversight of his council and no way of knowing what transpires in the council’s communications with the regulated companies. In fact, very little is even known about the inner working of the Council because it communicates with the outside world largely through press releases and its monthly meetings are not open to the public.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: JACKIE STONEBRAKER
SOURCE: THE AMICUS JOURNAL, 40 West 20th St., New York, NY 10011, DATE: Summer 1991
TITLE: “Unfair Competition”
AUTHOR: Nancy Shute
SOURCE: THE NATION, 72 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011, DATE: 7/29/91
TITLE: “Dan Quayle, Business’s Backdoor Boy”
AUTHOR: Jim Sibbison
COMMENTS: Author Nancy Shute said that prior to the Amicus Journal story, the subject of administration interference into the regulatory process had received almost no coverage. However, she points out, “Regulations have as much impact as the laws they enforce, yet receive far less coverage than the legislative process.” And the public needs to know that laws can be altered in the regulatory process. Shute adds that major media coverage has improved since the Amicus article and that Congressional hearings and investigations have been held.
Investigative reporter Jim Sibbison also confirmed that there was significant coverage of the issue toward the end of 1991. However, he adds, “The problem is that the media make no attempt to find out the corporate polluters who benefit from Quayle’s effort — no attempt to name names. The corporations benefit despite the coverage, which is fuzzy and timid.” Sibbison says that the public should be aware that “George Bush, the environmental president, along with Vice President Dan Quayle, are guilty of malfeasance in administering environmental programs.” Sibbison charges that despite the improved coverage, this message isn’t coming through. He notes that on December 24, 1991, the New York Times had a “page one story to the effect that Quayle’s impact on regulations is slight. The problem turns out to be too many regulations encumbering industry.”