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From: TSS (
Date: November 16, 2004 at 7:36 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 09:46:44 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."

Cabinet members faced NW issues

Criticism follows outgoing Spencer Abraham over the energy crisis and
Ann Veneman over mad cow
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
WASHINGTON -- Two of the Cabinet secretaries who said they would resign
Monday -- Spencer Abraham and Ann Veneman -- led their respective
departments through crises of power supply and mad cow disease in the

Abraham and Veneman both indicated they would like to stay on, but a
White House spokesman declined to say whether they were asked to leave.

"These were decisions that each of these individuals came to, and that's
the way I would describe it," Scott McClellan, President Bush's press
secretary, said.

Abraham, formerly a U.S. senator from Michigan, came to Bush's Cabinet
as a proponent of privatizing the Bonneville Power Administration, the
federal agency that supplies about half of the Northwest's electricity.

Abraham backed away from his BPA proposal at his confirmation hearing in
January 2001. But a few weeks later, as wholesale electricity prices
spiked on the West Coast, Abraham resisted pleas from Congress to impose
price caps.

"In my judgment, there could be immediate economic consequences if a
price cap regime is put in place that in effect makes the summer's
shortages even worse," Abraham told a Senate panel in March 2001.

In a resignation letter released by the White House on Monday, Abraham
cited his achievements in the job such as progress in cleaning up
weapons development sites such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Abraham was criticized by some in Congress for failing to generate
support for a comprehensive energy bill during Bush's first term. But he
cited family concerns as the overriding factor in his decision to resign.

"As you know, we have three elementary age children and these past four
years have posed significant challenges on our family in many ways,"
Abraham wrote to Bush in a letter dated Sunday.

Veneman's department has jurisdiction over the U.S. Forest Service, and
Bush issued a statement crediting her with helping implement the Healthy
Forests Initiative to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

But Veneman was not well known in the Northwest until December 2003,
when her department confirmed the first known U.S. case of mad cow
disease in a Holstein slaughtered in Washington state.

Although Veneman earned kudos from Congress for her handling of the
ensuing crisis, critics faulted her for misrepresenting the risk posed
by the disease before it was discovered.

For nearly three years, Veneman cited a department-sponsored study from
the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, saying the study showed her
department's actions had helped keep mad cow disease from entering the
United States.

But the study's authors said they were not able to assess the risk of
entry. And the study arrived at a different conclusion -- that if the
disease had entered the country, the risk to public health would be
minimal. Nevertheless, Veneman's comments stalled efforts in Congress to
reduce the risk to public health.

Veneman declined repeated requests to discuss the controversy, but
several current and former aides told The Oregonian that Veneman knew
that the Harvard study did not assess the risk of entry as she said.

Veneman offered no reason for her departure. In a letter to Bush dated
Friday, Veneman said: "Mr. President, we have made great progress during
the past four years and I feel now is an appropriate time for me to move
on to new opportunities."

Jim Barnett: 503-294-7604;


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