John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and now a chief advisor to Barack Obama to implement Obama’s climate change agenda, is hurrying as fast as he can to get Obama’s programs in place before he may be summoned to help run Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the GOP takes over the Senate.
Podesta, the founder of the Center for American Progress, has been responsible for the hard push from the Obama Administration in 2014 on the environmental front: China and the U.S. agreed on massive cuts to their carbon emissions, the administration secured commitments on solar power from affordable-housing providers and Wal-Mart, and the “Climate Action Champions” competition was implemented. Podesta’s job with Obama is supposed to end at the end of 2014. Thus. he speaks like a man with no time to lose; he told a crowd in Las Vegas, “We need all levels of government, we need all levels of the economy pulling together to reduce emissions, to build resilience, to deploy more clean energy, to invest in energy efficiency, to build more resilient infrastructure, and to plan for climate impacts that are already here and ones that we know are on their way. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
In June 2013, Obama asserted that he was devoted to mandatory carbon-pollution standards on coal-fired power plants, as well as reducing methane and hydrofluorocarbons and urging businesses to build more energy efficient buildings. To circumvent GOP opposition, Podesta was hired. Dan Utech, a senior White House climate policy aide, said:
We laid out a lot in June of 2013, and John has been driving everybody … across the government to make sure that we are executing on that. I think he said, “Look, the plan is great and that is job No. 1, but let’s look for ways to increase ambition, to do even more anywhere that we can do that.” And so he really challenged everybody here at the White House who works on these issues, everybody across the Cabinet that has a part of these issues, to think about what are additional things we can do, what are ways we can either do additional policy steps from here or engage with the private sector.
In order to ensure that climate change has remained at or near the top of the priority list, Podesta has been privy to the administration’s efforts on problems such as Ebola and ISIS, allowing him to know when he can insert environmental issues at the top of the list.
The top item on Obama’s environmental list is currently carbon-emissions standards for power plants; the June deadline for the EPA to draft the new law was met, but incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will attempt to crush it. He said he will “to try to do whatever I can to get the [Environmental Protection Agency] reined in.” New West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito echoed, “We’ve been picked as a loser, and I’m not going to stand for it.” McConnell will attach riders to spending bills to stop the EPA. And the new GOP majority in the Senate may reverse the recent vote on the Keystone pipeline and pave the way for its completion.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming has said of Podesta, “The last thing Americans want now is another unaccountable ‘czar’ who goes around Congress and the public to push extreme red tape that destroys more jobs and makes it even harder for our economy to grow.” Podesta was instrumental in the deal between China and the U.S. to cut emissions of greenhouse gases; the U.S. agreed to cut emissions 26 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. GOP Rep. Fred Upton, who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, snapped, “Just when we are finally getting back on firmer economic footing, thanks in large part to our game-changing energy boom, a lame-duck president is working to stack the deck against American jobs, wage increases, and affordable energy.”
Although Podesta succeeded in forwarding the agenda for implementing tougher mileage standards for trucks, he has failed to implement a national cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse-gas emissions or set in a national “renewable-electricity standard.” And the EPA has failed to set new regulations for methane emissions.
But environmentalists still want Podedsta at the helm as Environmentalist and Democratic strategist Glenn Hurowitz stated, “You can divide the Obama administration’s environmental policy-making into BP and AP. Before Podesta and After Podesta.”