Washington, DC — In response to congressional demands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is assembling all documents relating to Administrator’s Stephen Johnson’s controversial December 19th announcement blocking California and 16 other states from controlling greenhouse gases, according to an all employee e-mail released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Johnson’s own immediate staff will provide “any records presenting options, recommendations, ‘pros and cons,’ legal issues or risks, political implications or considerations, or any other record” to investigators.
On December 20, 2007, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, wrote Johnson asking him to “immediately initiate record collection, and to preserve all potentially relevant records.” The letter cites media reports that Johnson “overrode the recommendations of your technical and legal staff in making this decision.”
Although Johnson’s decision on the request by California and other states to regulate greenhouse gases from automobiles was supposed to have been the product of months of legal and scientific deliberation, Johnson hastily called a press conference at 6:30 pm to cite the energy bill signed just that morning as the principal basis for his veto of state action. Senator Boxer in her letter characterized Johnson’s “two-page letter denying the waiver [as] devoid of any legal or technical analysis.”
The surrender of the EPA staff recommendations to Congress sets up an unusual autopsy of the behind-the-scenes factors for an executive branch decision— presumably a decision that had been cleared by the White House. Since the tenure of the administration’s first EPA Administrator, Christie Todd Whitman, agency policy on global warming has been set directly by Vice President Cheney and the White House.
“What made Johnson’s decision so striking is that for months he said he was basing it on the scientific and legal merits and then did the precise opposite,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has been contacted by outraged EPA employees. “One employee told me ‘I am ashamed to admit that I work at EPA’ and another asked ‘What am I supposed to tell my children when they ask me what I am doing to fight global warming?’”
Johnson has refused to attend a field hearing of Sen. Boxer’s committee slated for January 10, 2008 in Los Angeles. When Johnson does finally appear before Congress it promises to be highly contentious.
“To his own staff, Johnson’s tenure has been nothing short of appalling, ranking him with Anne Gorsuch Burford, who ended her turbulent tenure under President Reagan by resigning in disgrace, as the worst leader in EPA’s history,” Ruch added. “EPA under Johnson has become a major impediment to moving the country forward on the challenge of global warming.”