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Climate Staff Urge EPA to Come Clean Before Congress

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Climate Staff Urge EPA to Come Clean Before Congress

“Professional Staff at EPA Has Nothing to Hide” Says Joint Letter to Johnson

Washington, DC — The professional staff charged with developing greenhouse gas regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency want Administrator Stephen Johnson to come clean on how decisions were reached on key climate change issues, according to a joint letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Agency specialists also want the chance to rebut critics of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) published in July addressing greenhouse gases.

The ANPR was developed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Massachusetts v. EPA directing the agency to address carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act. In unveiling the ANPR, Administrator Johnson did two things that outraged staff: First, he included a transmittal letter indicating his disagreement with his own agency’s proposal. Second, in a departure from protocol, he prefaced the filing with extensive objections from other federal agencies and then denied his own staff the opportunity to reply to those adverse comments.

The July 30, 2008 joint letter from the unions representing the specialists who drafted the ANPR to Johnson states that his actions were “troubling and, quite frankly, unprofessional” and urges that he –

  • Cooperate “with congressional requests for documents and hearings” seeking to determine what factors affected Johnson’s decisions to defer direct action on global warming and to prevent states, most notably California, from taking certain steps on their own.
  • Allow “EPA experts to submit responses to agency submissions” opposing the ANPR; and
  • Publically defend the integrity of EPA professional staff from public attacks lodged in editorials and by industry groups.

“Once again, Stephen Johnson has sandbagged his own staff,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, referring to Johnson’s recent well-publicized reversals of findings and recommendations by his technical and legal professionals. “It is more than a tad hypocritical for Johnson to cite decision-making ‘transparency’ as the reason for airing opposition memos while he is dodging congressional subpoenas.”

Besides delaying any coherent response to global warming until the next administration, Johnson’s actions have aggravated sharply deteriorating morale. This spring, EPA employee unions suspended any further discussions with Johnson citing a lack of trust. Another more recent indication of internal angst is a blunt order directing EPA staff “not respond to questions or make any statements” if contacted by congressional investigators, reporters or even by its own Office of Inspector General. At the same time, U.S. Senators are raising the prospects of perjury by Johnson in congressional testimony and calling upon him to resign.

The unions behind the letter represent specialists in Research Triangle Park (NC), the National Vehicle & Fuel Emissions Laboratory (MI) and EPA Headquarters (DC) who work on greenhouse gas policies.

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Read the joint EPA staff letter to Johnson

View the Advanced Notice for Public Rulemaking documents

See the EPA gag order against speaking with investigators or reporters

Look at the chorus of no confidence in Johnson by EPA staff