Profile: Philip A. Cooney
Philip A. Cooney was a participant or observer in the following events:
President George Bush appoints Philip A. Cooney as the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which helps create and promote administration policies on environmental issues. In that position, he also serves as the Bush’s “climate team leader.” Cooney, a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in economics, was formerly a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. He has no background in science. [New York Times, 6/8/2005]
Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), sends an email to Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, discussing how to respond to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) that acknowledged human activity is contributing to global warming. It was the first time the US government had ever made the admission. In the email, Ebell conveys his plan to discredit the report by suing the agency. He also recommends playing down the report and firing some EPA officials. “It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible,” he says in the email. “Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired.… It seems to me our only leverage to push you in the right direction is to drive a wedge between the president and those in the administration who think that they are serving the president’s interests by publishing this rubbish.” The organization Ebell represents has received more than $1 million since 1998 from Exxon. Cooney previously worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (see 2001). [Ebell, 6/3/2002; Greenpeace, 9/9/2003; Observer, 9/21/2003]
Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, edits a draft of the annual Our Changing Planet report to make it less alarming. In one sentence, he adds the word “extremely” so it reads, “The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.” Similarly, he changes the sentence, “Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change,” so it instead says, “Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change.” In another section of the report, he crosses out an entire paragraph discussing the expected melting of mountain glaciers and snowpacks. In its margins, he asserts that the report’s authors were “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.” [New York Times, 6/8/2005; Reid and Lautenberg, 6/29/2005] Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, has no background in climate science (see 2001).
Philip Cooney, chief of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), informs White House staffer Kevin O’Donovan in a memo that the CEQ will begin using a study by Willie Soon and Sally Baliunas (see January 31, 2003) to rebut studies that suggest the planet is warming. Cooney also says that he has inserted a reference to this paper in the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 ] (The Soon-Baliunas paper has been heavily criticized. After the paper was published in Climate Research, several of the journal’s editors resigned in protest, and scientists whose papers had been cited in the study complained that their research had been misrepresented; see June 23, 2003.)
The Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) advises the EPA that the report “needs balance” and asserts that “global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts.” The office also suggests removing the discussion on global warming completely from the report’s executive summary. “[D]elete climate change or use previously agreed upon material,” writes one staffer at the White House Council of Environmental Quality. Similarly, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy suggests removing a discussion of the potential impacts climate change might have on human health and ecology. The Department of Energy also gets involved, arguing through the White House that EPA should delete any discussion of atmospheric concentrations of carbon because it is not a “good indicator of climate change.” Another official warns, “Take care here and be sure to be consistent with existing administration policy. Let us try to avoid another CAR scenario.” This is a reference to the Climate Action Report (CAR) (see May 2002) that the US submitted to the UN in May 2002. That report concluded that human activities are “causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise.” White House officials also suggest making edits to particular sentences. For example, the OMB asks the EPA to delete the phrases, “alter regional patterns of climate,” and, “potentially affect the balance of radiation.” It also suggests replacing the passage, “changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly the result of human activities,” with, “a causal link between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.” Several of the edits are made by CEQ chief Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist. According to a congressional investigation, Cooney removes climate change “from a discussion of environmental issues that have global consequences, delete[s] a chart depicting historical temperature reconstruction, and insert[s] the word ‘potentially’ in several places to reduce the certainty of scientific statements regarding the impacts of climate change.” Cooney also advocates the removal of references to a 2001 National Research Council report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures rose significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. Cooney also adds a claim to the draft report that satellite data does not support global warming, and removes a phrase that says “regional patterns may be altered” by climate change. In one memo, Cooney writes, “These changes must be made.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003; US Congress, 1/30/2007 ]
Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigns. Two days earlier, the New York Times revealed he had edited reports downplaying the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. According to White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino, his departure is unrelated to the recent disclosure. “Phil Cooney did a great job,” she says, “and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.” Four days later, ExxonMobil announces that Cooney will be working for the company in the fall. [New York Times, 6/15/2005]
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