News & Politics

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Washingtonians who may not be doing good for the environment.

Not everyone in Washington is working to save the planet. Who’s not? Here are ten people who environmentalists say are standing in the way of change.

To see 30 local eco-heroes, check out the April issue of Washingtonian, on stands now.

Senator James Inhofe
The Oklahoma senator says that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people.” Environmental advocates say that his role in the climate-change “disinformation campaign”—which argues that temperature changes are normal and not human-induced—has been damaging.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney
Because of Bush and Cheney, advocates say, the White House and federal agencies are filled with pro-industry appointees who don’t stand up to big polluters. A series of articles last summer in the Washington Post detailed actions by the vice president that advocates say show disrespect for the environment—and, they argue, have made this the most anti-environmental administration in recent history.

Henry V. Nickel and Bill Wehrum
Nickel and Wehrum are partners in the law firm Hunton & Williams. Nickel is known as the go-to guy for power companies hoping to avoid EPA regulation. Wehrum, activists say, allowed power plants to continue emitting mercury emissions at harmful levels during his tenure as administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Says one advocate: “They’re paid to find loopholes.”

Mark Rey
Activists say that Rey, undersecretary for natural resources and environment at the Department of Agriculture, has done more harm than good. Rey, a former timber-industry lobbyist in charge of protecting the nation’s 155 national forests, is said to have promoted destructive forestry practices and expanded energy-extraction options in national forests.

Susan Dudley
When the Senate rejected Dudley’s appointment as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs because she was too pro-industry, Bush skirted Democratic opposition by appointing her during a recess. Since then, activists say, Dudley has worked to block new environmental regulations and to undo some of those already in place.

Jim Connaughton, an environmental-news Web site that has become a must read for greenies, calls Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, “the jedi master of double talk.” As President Bush’s senior adviser on the environment, Connaughton helped develop the Clear Skies bill, criticized by environmentalists for weakening pollution-control regulations and disregarding carbon-dioxide emissions. He also helped ease logging restrictions on federal lands.

Congressman John Dingell
Environmentalists say that Dingell, Democratic chair of the Energy and Commerce committee, has done lots of good when it comes to conservation and global warming. He was voted “pro-environment” by the League of Conservation Voters. But he represents Michigan, home to Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, and his wife, Debbie, is vice chair of the General Motors Foundation. Some activists say that Dingell, faced with industry pressure, is standing in the way of increased fuel standards.

Congressman Joe Barton
When former vice president Al Gore testified to Congress about climate change, the Texas Republican told him, “You’re not just off a little. You’re totally wrong.” Barton has said that he’ll do everything in his power to stop action aimed at global warming, and he has quashed any legislation offering pro-environment solutions.

Governor Tim Kaine
In September, Kaine unveiled an ambitious energy plan that included cutting Virginia’s greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent by 2025. But environmentalists point out that Kaine’s support of new coal-fired plants will increase the state’s dependence on dirty energy.

Michael Powell
Named one of the top environmental lawyers in the region by Baltimore magazine, Powell is counsel for the Maryland Industrial Group, an advocacy organization representing many of the state’s largest industrial firms—also some of the state’s biggest polluters. Powell has said there’s nothing Maryland can do to stop global warming.