James L. Connaughton

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James Laurence Connaughton (born May, 1961) is the former chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, serving as a senior environmental advisor to the George W. Bush. He previously worked as a lobbyist for power industry and large electricity users, including the asbestos industry. His office pressured the Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically weaken the wording of its public statements about the air quality in New York City in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. [1]

In February 2009, Connaughton joined Constellation Energy as its "executive vice president, corporate affairs, public and environmental policy." Connaughton will "direct the company's environmental and energy policy matters, as well as public and government affairs," or lobbying. According to a Constellation press release, Connaughton will help the company highlight its "low-emitting merchant fleet, expanding renewable portfolio and energy efficiency services, and its position as a leader in advancing the critical renaissance of emission-free nuclear energy." [2]

"A former lobbyist for utilities, mining, chemical, and other industrial polluters, Connaughton, represented the likes of General Electric and ARCO in their effort to escape responsibility for cleaning up toxic Superfund sites. Now he heads up pollution-policy development for the administration and coordinates its implementation. He has led the charge to weaken the standards of getting arsenic out of our drinking water, and he has steadily advised Bush to ignore, divert, stall, dismiss, and otherwise block out all calls for action against the industrial causes of global warming," Jim Hightower wrote in a 2004 article for Utne.com. [3]

Bush Administration

Connaughton was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on June 14, and appointed by President Bush on June 18, 2001 to serve as the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). In this capacity, he served on President Bush's Senior Staff as senior environment, energy and natural resources advisor, and as Director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy. Mr. Connaughton helped develop and carry out major energy and environmental policy initiatives, coordinated interagency implementation of environment and natural resource programs, and mediated key policy disagreements among Federal agencies, state, tribal and local governments and private citizens.[citation needed]

Energy Security and Climate Change

A major component of Mr. Connaughton’s policy and management portfolio involved coordination of the Cabinet-level committee addressing climate change and energy security policy. Mr. Connaughton was responsible for the development and implementation of the Administration’s 2002 comprehensive climate change strategy in concert with the Administration’s work on energy policy, which led to a series of new mandatory programs, incentive programs, technology initiatives and public private partnerships unprecedented in scope. These programs included:[citation needed]

  • Major, bi-partisan legislation in 2005 to advance energy technology research and development
  • Major, bi-partisan legislation in 2007 to establish five new federal mandates on vehicle fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, and efficiency standards for appliances, lighting systems and federal operations;
  • Tens of billions of dollars in incentives for carbon sequestration on agricultural lands; new public forest management programs to prevent catastrophic wildfire and foster sequestration;
  • Technology research and development programs cumulatively exceeding $20 billion dollars; and
  • Dramatic increase in federal tax credits, loans and guarantees from less than $2 billion in 2001 to more than $70 billion in 2008 to accelerate commercial deployment of major low-carbon technologies including alternative fuels, high-efficiency vehicles, nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and carbon capture and storage.

Mr. Connaughton also oversaw the Administration’s Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining to help bring new energy projects on line faster while assuring environmental compliance and stewardship. With respect to international climate and energy policy, Mr. Connaughton helped establish a series of bi-lateral and multi-lateral technology initiatives in every major technology category (from fusion to efficiency), the highly successful Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate Change (with Australia, Canada, China, Japan, India and South Korea) and the Major Economies Leaders Meetings on Energy and Climate. In 2007, President Bush designated Mr. Connaughton to serve as his personal representative in the Major Economies process, culminating in the historic first Meeting of Major Economies Leaders in Japan in the summer of 2008 to help advance a new international agreement and cooperative action on energy security and climate change.[citation needed]

Ocean Policy and Marine Resource Conservation

Another major component of Mr. Connaughton’s policy and management portfolio involved the development and implementation of a comprehensive national ocean policy. Mr. Connaughton worked closely with the Presidentially-appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. Following the publication of the Commission’s recommendations in the fall of 2004, President Bush designated Mr. Connaughton chairman of a new Cabinet Committee on Ocean Policy tasked with ensuring prompt and effective action on the Commission’s recommendations. In this role, Mr. Connaughton oversaw the development of the U.S. Ocean Action Plan, which contained more than 80 high-level actions that the Executive Branch would undertake over a three-year period. These included successfully securing comprehensive, bi-partisan legislation to end overfishing in America; obtaining UN resolution to prohibit destructive fishing practices on the high seas; providing significant new protections for highly endangered right whales; developing the first ten year ocean research priorities plan and increasing funding for ocean research; enhancing ocean education and awareness; improving the planning and management of maritime transportation; helping to establish regional governance in the Gulf, West Coast, Great Lakes, and Southeast; protecting coral reefs and other important marine habitat; and establishing policies for the Arctic. Mr. Connaughton played an instrumental role in President Bush’s historic decisions to establish four new Marine National Monuments in the Pacific, protecting 330,000 square miles of coral and marine habitat—the largest area of ocean conservation in the world. These include: the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands; the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument in the area of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands; the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in the area of American Samoa; and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.[citation needed]

Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Conservation

Mr. Connaughton also coordinated and assured effective implementation of major Administration initiatives that included: the national clean air strategy; Healthy Forests Restoration Act; multi-billion dollar expansion of agricultural land conservation programs; multi-billion dollar funding to address the National Parks maintenance backlog; three billion dollar National Parks Centennial Initiative; the Wetlands Restoration Initiative to increase overall wetlands acres and quality by more than 7 million acres; legislative expansion and acceleration of the program to clean-up and redevelop more than ten thousand abandoned industrial sites known as “brownfields,” while providing small business liability relief; environmental cooperation agreements with our free trade partners; and G-8 and international partnerships for sustainable development.[citation needed]

Federal Government Environmental Stewardship

Mr. Connaughton was instrumental in developing performance-based Executive Orders on Federal Government environmental stewardship, including: adoption of modernized environmental management systems and performance assessments at more than 2000 federal government operations to carry out aggressive new goals on energy efficiency, use of renewable fuel and power, vehicle efficiency, alternative vehicles, and water use.


Early career

Prior to joining the Bush Administration, Mr. Connaughton was a partner in the law firm Sidley Austin, in its Environmental Practice Group, covering a wide range of environmental policy issues, such as environmental management and compliance assurance systems, legislation, regulation, international trade and standards, and ecological risk and natural resource damages assessment.[citation needed]

Of particular note, from 1993 until 2001, Mr. Connaughton served as one of the lead U.S. negotiators of the ISO 14000 series of international environmental management and performance consensus standards, including standards on environmental labeling. Mr. Connaughton also worked with officials from U.S. EPA, California EPA, and the Environmental Law Institute to help form the Multi-State Work Group on Environmental Management Systems ("MSWG"). Mr. Connaughton has extensive experience helping organizations large and small become responsible environmental stewards through effective environmental/energy management and compliance assurance systems. This work covered the electronics, transportation, consumer products, IT, home improvement, energy, and mining sectors in North America and Asia, from corporate headquarters to the factory floor.[citation needed]

Mr. Connaughton began his career working on behalf of asbestos victims who worked in the major construction trades.[citation needed]


Connaughton earned his Bachelor's degree from Yale University, where he was a member of The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, one of Yale's undergraduate a cappella groups, and a regular performer and producer in musical theater. In his senior year, Connaughton was selected for the senior society Scroll and Key and became a member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the world renowned, senior men's singing group. In 1989, he graduated second in his class, magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, from the Northwestern University School of Law. At Northwestern, he was an Austin Scholar and served as Coordinating Articles Editor of the Northwestern University Law Review. Following Law School, he clerked for U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen in the Northern District of Illinois. [5]


Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. "EPA's Response to the World Trade Center Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas for Improvement (pdf)," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General, August 21, 2003.
  2. Press release, "Constellation Energy Names James L. Connaughton Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Public and Environmental Policy," Constellation Energy, February 23, 2009.
  3. Jim Hightower, "A Dirty Dozen: Sub-cabinet policy operatives actually run government", Utne.com, June 2004.
  4. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/connaugton-bio.html James L. Connaughton Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality]. Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  5. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/connaugton-bio.html James L. Connaughton Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality]. Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  6. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/connaugton-bio.html James L. Connaughton Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality]. Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved on 2007-06-06.

External resources

External articles