Under Subpoena, EPA Instead Demands Docs From Oversight Committee 1

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 20 Mar 2008 13:07:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

bush
Under subpoena by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to turn over documents involving the White House, the EPA instead requested documents from him, in a letter revealed Wednesday by E&E News.

On March 10, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) kicked off a new round the latest installment in his ongoing investigation of the EPA with a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson:
“I am writing to request that EPA provide to the Oversight Committee documents that the agency has improperly withheld from the Committee…relating to your decision to reject California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

This request includes not only specific documents that EPA eventually turned over in heavily redacted form, but also “hundreds of documents” that involve EPA and the White House that top-level EPA officials told Waxman’s committee are being withheld.

On March 12, Waxman sent a detailed timeline of events to Johnson based on the EPA interviews showing that the EPA’s efforts to regulate CO2 stopped after the White House became involved.

On March 13, Waxman issued a subpoena for 196 of the documents.

The next day, the EPA’s Christopher P. Bliley – who was White House budget director Jim Nussle’s chief of staff when Nussle was in Congress – sent a letter to Waxman, saying that the documents “raise very important Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and that “we need additional time to respond to your request.”

Then he one-upped Waxman, making a document demand of his own:
EPA would also like to request copies of the transcripts from the Committee’s interviews of seven Agency employees.
His reason?
The Agency has an interest in ensuring that the information provided to the Committee by Agency employees in their official capacity is accurate and complete, particularly here where that information appears to be the basis for a new and expansive document request.

In other words, the White House wants to make sure their stories don’t contradict what Waxman already knows.

Needless to say, the EPA does not have oversight or subpoena power over the House of Representatives.

Waxman has also opened an investigation into Bush’s manipulation of the new smog standards issued by the EPA last week.

EPA LETTER (3/14/08) EXCERPTS:

EPA respects your role as Chairman and is committed to providing the Committee information necessary to satisfy its oversight interests to the extent possible and consistent with our Constitutional and statutory obligations. The three documents you are requesting are internal EPA documents that raise very important Executive Branch confidentiality interests. Because of this concern, we need additional time to respond to your request. We plan to further respond by March 20.

[…]

EPA would also like to request copies of the transcripts from the Committee’s interviews of seven Agency employees. During the interview process, your staff noted concerns about the possible chilling effect on testimony of Agency employees if the Agency were privy to the information disclosed by the employees. In light of your March 12 letter, which contains multiple references to individual testimony and is posted on the Committee’s website, EPA believes that this concern is not longer a valid basis for withholding the transcripts from the Agency. The Agency has an interest in ensuring that the information provided to the Committee by Agency employees in their official capacity is accurate and complete, particularly here where that information appears to be the basis for a new and expansive document request.

We look forward to discussions with your staff on the scope of this request. As I have said before, this is a top priority for the Agency and we are committed to responding as expeditiously as possible. . .

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