EPA Toxic Chemical Policies

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 29 Apr 2008 14:00:00 GMT

Witnesses
  • James B. Gulliford, Assistant Administrator for Pesticides, Prevention, and Toxic Substances, United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • John B. Stephenson, Director, Natural Resources & Environment, U.S. Government and Accountability Office
Panel 2
  • Linda Giudice MD, PhD, Chair, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences Department, University of California, San Francisco
  • Annette Gellert, Co-Founder and Chair, WELL Network
  • V.M. DeLisi, Fanwood Chemical, Inc., On behalf of the Synthetic Organic Chemicals Manufacturers Association
  • Laura Plunkett, Ph.D, Integrative Biostrategies, LLC
  • Lynn R. Goldman, MD, MPH, Chair, Interdepartmental Program in Applied Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences, Occupational and Environmental Health, Johns Hopkins University

E&E News:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss changes U.S. EPA made earlier this month to a key chemical database that would allow federal stakeholders, scientists and the public to weigh in early in the chemical risk assessment process.

The agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) provides access to research on chemicals found in the environment and their potential health effects. The risk assessments are used to create public health standards.

Under the new plan, EPA not only would invite other agencies to participate in the risk assessment process earlier but also would hold listening sessions to “allow for broader participation and engagement of interested parties,” according to the agency’s Research and Development Office. EPA also said the changes would result in an even more rigorous scientific peer review of IRIS assessments.

EPW Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the changes would be problematic. “They put politics before science by letting the White House and federal polluters derail EPA’s scientific assessment of toxic chemicals,” she said in a statement.

The Government Accountability Office is expected to issue a report that addresses Boxer’s concerns (Greenwire, April 11).

But some Republicans hope the hearing will give EPA a chance to promote the progress they have made on knowing and understanding the many chemicals that are out in the public sphere.

“The perception is that there are all of these chemicals in commercial use that EPA doesn’t know about,” said a Republican aide to the committee. “We think that’s erroneous. EPA has done a good job in recent years to try to increase what we know about the risks and toxicity [of chemicals]. It’s done a lot through voluntary steps, as well as some statutory ones, so I think it’s important that EPA talk about what they’ve been doing.”

10:00 Boxer The levels set in IRIS are used for most EPA regulatory programs and many state programs. The level set for arsenic in water and benzene in air went through IRIS. Early in the Bush administration, they acted to bring OMB in the process. Administrator Johnson made changing IRIS a high priority. Noone can explain to me where there is room for politics when you’re determining the health of the American people. Instead of having scientists at EPA deciding, we now have contractors effectively at the table. The entire process is kept secret. Here’s the irony: this administration has no end in sight for funding for the DoD. Isn’t it ironic that they are derailing the census of toxic chemicals. Similarly GAO found delays in risk assessments of formaldehyde. Scientists told our committee staff the process was delayed and people continued to be exposed.

Scientists reported, “De facto, EPA can’t go ahead without DoD and White House sign-off.”

The role of independent scientists at EPA must be restored.

10:10 Inhofe The witness invited runs the TSCA program, not the IRIS program. This GAO report was distributed on Friday. But it was completed on March 7, and then embargoed. My concern is that this hearing seems to be set up as a gotcha hearing. If the chairman were truly concerned about oversight, she would have shared the report with the minority and invited the right administrator. I believe there should be oversight of the ethanol program, which has raised food prices and caused riots. We should be concerned about this diversion from fuel to food.

10:13 Boxer We did tell your staff IRIS was an important part. We wanted Administrator Johnson. We think this is bigger than the IRIS program. I don’t mind that you are unhappy with me. What’s important is the bottom line. This is a scandal, frankly. Our families are being put at risk because politics has entered the process.

10:15 Inhofe I didn’t attack you on this. I think if we ask for an embargo we should share with each other.

10:15 Lautenberg How nice it is to start this spring day with a discussion not of the issues, but the process. While bisphenol-A is being developed, the EPA did nothing. They were silent. Out of the 80,000 chemicals used now, the EPA has only tested 200. It’s unacceptable. I refuse to let my grandchildren to become the new canaries in the coalmine. I will soon introduce a new version of the Kid Safe Chemical Act. This legislation would direct the EPA to make sure every chemical is safe before they end up in products. We do this with pesticides and pharmaceuticals already. It seems to make sense to do that with industrial chemicals as well.

10:21 Barrasso There is nothing we would not provide for our children. The question we should ask is, has the chemical industry helped improve the lives of our children? Is TSCA perfect? No. Could it be improved? Perhaps. Can it be better implemented? Certainly… PVC is used in prosthetics.

10:27 Boxer We’re talking about protective standards in our water and our air, not in prosthetics.

10:28 Barrasso The plastics that I’ve seen use chemicals.

Boxer We’re not talking about banning them, we’re talking about regulating them. Nothing that you said I object to. I’m saying we need to control them when scientists say they cause birth defects, when they cause cancer.

10:29 Whitehouse We have 80,000 chemicals to which American families are exposed, very few of which are tested.

10:31 Craig We have to talk about the role of chemicals in society. I’m going to err on the side of a doctor, not a politician—Barrasso. Our history is replete with the lack of knowledge and understanding with respect to the pollution of chemicals in our society. We’re talking about jobs.

10:36 Boxer It is not our job to keep the chemical industry at the table. It might be in another committee. When it comes to the profitability of the chemical industry, let them do that in the Commerce Committee. Dr. Barrasso is an orthopedic surgeon. On this panel we will have a pediatrician and an ob/gyn. The people who know about this are the experts. All this “confusion” about this hearing. The title of this hearing is “Oversight of EPA Toxic Chemical Policies.” Policies. We can talk about TSCA, we can talk about IRIS. I’m a little stunned that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle aren’t working with us. There’s a train leaving the station with Admin Johnson and Bush’s OMB on it trying to derail a very important program to keep our children safe.

10:39 Klobuchar I see our role as oversight of enforcement. I’m not just a mother but also a prosecutor. If you don’t have the enforcement angle, then we’re not doing our job, and Congress has to come in. I come at this not naively, but look at these toys. Our Consumer Product Safety Commission wasn’t looking at these toys. I was shocked to read the testimony of Ms. Gellert.

10:58 Boxer You’re getting tainted information, and that’s a problem.

11:00 Gulliford It’s important for us to prioritize chemicals.

Barrasso So the chemical industry doesn’t always agree with you.

Gulliford Our job is to take industry information.

Boxer The progress on lead was made under the old rules.

11:01 Whitehouse The carveout is for other federal agencies. Everyone else has to be public. You go to the White House and you can stick any comments in. Isn’t that a legitimate concern?

Gulliford I don’t believe that would happen.

Whitehouse What prevents the OMB from inserting political influence?

Gulliford You’re making the assumption OMB is political.

Whitehouse We generally try to prevent problems. If you leave a door open to that, it’s not adequate to say, “Well, we can’t prove it’s used for that.”

Gulliford The final products of the IRIS process are reviewed by third-parties. It’s a very transparent process.

11:06 Boxer I just want to say, you’re a very good witness. GAO said it’s a black box. It is secret. Sen. Whitehouse is just reiterating what we know is the truth.

11:07 Craig I’m trying to understand the process because it seems to be the process that is under attack, not the outcome. How many premanufacturing notices has the EPA received versus notices to commence?

11:25 Whitehouse There’s nothing in the process that would prevent or disclose whether a polluter made campaign contributions, was a Pioneer or whatever, and then went to the OMB to influence this process.

Stephenson That’s our fear.

Boxer The whole spirit of this country is openness and trusting citizens with information. Noone should be in that room in the early risk assessment process except the scientists and those concerned with public health. When I go home, I hear all the time about the fears of my constituents. I wish I could tell them we’ve done a stellar job. We haven’t. This process will institutionalize this nightmare. This is a secret process. It’s a nightmare.

Stephen Johnson, The Environment's Alberto Gonzales 14

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 24 Apr 2008 20:37:00 GMT

From the Think Progress Wonk Room.

Stephen Johnson testifies before the House Select Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee

Alberto Gonzales brought disgrace to the Department of Justice as Attorney General, putting loyalty to the President above duty to the country, until the weight of numerous scandals forced his resignation in August 2007. As the New York Times described, he left “a Justice Department that has been tainted by political influence, depleted by the departures of top officials and weakened by sapped morale.”

Now all eyes are turning to Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—set up by President Nixon in 1970 to be an independent watchdog for the health of the environment and the American people. It has become clear that Johnson has subverted that mission, in contravention of science, ethics, and the law. What Gonzales did to Justice, Johnson is doing to the EPA.

On February 27, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) compared Johnson to Gonzales after a shameful performance before Congress. Two days later, unions representing more than 10,000 EPA career staff suspended their relationship with Johnson, citing his “failure to engage in good faith.” Yesterday, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a survey of staff scientists documenting widespread political interference during his tenure.

The most prominent examples of Johnson’s malfeasance are under investigation by Congress – the blatant disregard of the Supreme Court mandate to regulate greenhouse gases and allow states to do so as well, and the overruling of scientific recommendations on smog standards at the behest of President Bush.

However, there are numerous further acts exposed by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) that are running below the radar:
  • Refusing to enforce the agency’s “Principles of Scientific Integrity” involving fluoride drinking water standards, organophosphate pesticide registration, and control of mercury emissions from power plants.
  • The shuttering of EPA’s network of technical libraries without waiting for Congressional approval in 2006 – to be reopened only with documents that undergo a political review.
  • The abandonment of proposed rules protecting children and workers from lead paint in 2004 – rectified this March after years of lawsuits.
  • Violating the Endangered Species Act in failing to consider the harmful effects of pesticides on Chinook salmon.

The common thread behind all these actions is service to corporate polluters above public health. PEER has also exposed increasing corporate influence on pesticide labelling, scientific research, assessement of the health risks of new chemicals, and even the drafting of rules to allow testing pesticides on children.

In December, EPA staff privately urged Johnson to resign if he denied the California waiver petition to regulate greenhouse gases. Last month, Sierra Club president Carl Pope called for the resignation of Johnson because “he is entirely a creature of the whim of the President, the vice president, and other White House officials.” Three weeks ago, Friends of the Earth followed suit.

Yesterday, Rep. Waxman sent a letter to Johnson about the UCS report, asking him to “be prepared to respond to its findings” in an Oversight Committee hearing in May.

Rep. Markey has replied to the EPA’s refusal to obey a Global Warming Committee subpoena. In his letter, Markey says the committee is willing to keep confidential any documents turned over until June 21. If the EPA does not agree to this accomodation by 6 PM tomorrow, the “Committee is prepared to proceed with all its legal rights,” including “a vote of contempt” for Johnson.

EPA Defies Another Subpoena: 'It May Create Erroneous Impressions' 2

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 17 Apr 2008 22:25:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

In continued defiance of Congressional oversight, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has flatly declined to obey a subpoena from the House Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence. The subpoena for documents relating to the EPA’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court mandate to regulate greenhouse gases was issued by a unanimous, bipartisan vote on April 2, a year after the Supreme Court decision.

On April 11, the EPA requested and received an extension to respond, but today the agency has decided not to turn over the documents: Grave Concerns

Whether or not the EPA has “grave concerns” about “erroneous impressions,” a “chilling effect,” and “institutional prerogatives,” these are not legally defensible reasons to defy a Congressional subpoena. In a terse response, Committee chair Ed Markey (D-MA) found the reasoning “unpersuasive.” The letter continues:

Subpoena Cloud

Of course, if the EPA simply turned over the documents, it would no longer be under such a “cloud.”

The EPA is also defying the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for related documents on White House involvement. Both letters of refusal were written by EPA assistant administrator Christopher P. Bliley—who was OMB head Jim Nussle’s chief of staff in Congress.

Warming Law notes this defiance likely triggers contempt of Congress proceedings for EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.

View the full letter: EPA 4-16-08 Subpoena Response (PDF)

Nominee To Be EPA's Top Lawyer Embraces Unitary Executive Doctrine 11

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 10 Apr 2008 21:54:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

David R. HillIn his Senate Environment and Public Works nomination hearing today, David Hill, the Bush nominee for the General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was asked by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) what the EPA Administrator should do “if the President of the United States tells him to do something illegal.”

I believe that the courts have held, Senator, that within the unitary executive the administrator and the EPA, just as with all executive agencies, work for the President and are responsible to the President of the United States.

The “unitary executive” theory is a formerly obscure legal argument that asserts “all executive authority must be in the President’s hands, without exception.” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is a champion of the doctrine, as is Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington.

Boxer’s question was not purely hypothetical. The current administrator of the EPA, Stephen L. Johnson, has overruled his staff’s scientific recommendations on global warming regulations and ozone limits – both apparently at the behest of the White House.

Yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued a subpoena to compel the EPA to turn over documents involving communications with the White House.

Hearing transcript:

BOXER: Can you please answer my question? I beg you. You’re a very smart man. I’m not trying to trap you. I’m simply trying to get an answer.

Do you believe it is appropriate for the OMB or other White House staff to overrrule the scientific judgment of the EPA Administrator when Congress has explicitly delegated that decision to the administrator?

I’m not talking about consultation having lunch, chit-chatting, having coffee, and exchanging ideas. I’m talking about overruling a decision.

HILL: Ultimately the administrator works for the President of the United States.

BOXER: Doesn’t the Administrator have to carry out the Clean Air Act? What if the President of the United States tells him to do something illegal? You’re saying he has to do that?

HILL: I believe that the courts have held, Senator, that within the unitary executive the administrator and the EPA, just as with all executive agencies, work for the President and are responsible to the President of the United States.

The Nomination of David R. Hill to be Assistant Administrator (General Counsel) for the Environmental Protection Agency 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 10 Apr 2008 13:00:00 GMT

Witness
  • David R. Hill (Nominated to be Assistant Administrator (General Counsel) for the Environmental Protection Agency)

House Republicans Ask Waxman to Investigate EPA (Staff) 14

Posted by Warming Law Wed, 09 Apr 2008 16:14:00 GMT

The WSJ’s Dana Mattioli reported yesterday afternoon on the latest development in congressional oversight of the EPA’s California waiver decision:

In a letter today, two senior Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the panel’s chairman, Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), to investigate whether top EPA staffers either violated federal rules that restrict regulators from lobbying, or “misused their positions to surreptitiously influence” EPA’s decision on whether to allow California to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicles.

Reps. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) are mad at Margo Oge and Christopher Grundler, the senior EPA officials tasked with evaluating California’s waiver request and (unsuccessfully) telling Administrator Stephen Johnson that he had no choice but to grant it. Congressional oversight of that decision revealed that the pair subsequently provided former EPA Administrator William Reilly—at Reilly’s request—talking points with which to argue the waiver’s merits to Johnson.

Davis and Issa argue that this deserves the same level of scrutiny that Waxman devoted to a surreptitious plan to lobby Congress and governors against the waiver—Johnson may have also been a target, but he could not recall whether that was the case—deployed last summer by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, White House officials, and industry lobbyists.

This actually isn’t the first time that congressional Republicans have gone after Oge and Grundler. During a hearing that followed the revelation of the Reilly memo and other EPA documents, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) asked Administrator Johnson whether his employees had violated the Hatch Act. Johnson defended their actions, saying that he has "always encouraged my staff to give me candid and open advice" (he just reserves the right to ignore it, even when phrased as a clear mandate and not simply advice, and the resulting fallout severely alienates staff unions).

Rep. Waxman responded to the letter by pledging to give it "careful consideration," while noting that the Committee had "found no evidence that EPA career staff lobbied members of Congress with respect to [California’s request]" (translation: the Davis-Issa analogy to his previous investigation is bunk). For his part, Reilly, who ran EPA under the first President Bush and granted California several waivers, has said that his communications with career staff who served under him were not unprecedented, let alone improper or illegal.

Kansas, Bleeding Carbon Emissions, Looks to the Outback-Bound EPA 7

Posted by Warming Law Fri, 04 Apr 2008 16:32:00 GMT

Reports from Kansas this morning indicated that today, state legislators would attempt to overturn October’s denial of construction permits for two coal-fired power plants by the administration of Governor Kathleen Sebelius—which has cited concern over global warming impacts and a desire to move instead toward clean energy solutions. (UPDATE: Literally just as we were publishing this post, the bill fell short of a veto-proof majority by a single vote.) Sebelius recently vetoed similar legislation, which would also significantly amend state anti-pollution law to strip regulators of the ability to factor in CO2 emissions, instead tethering their authority to the federal government’s position on GHG-related harm. Legislative supporters have laden their efforts with a handful of green-friendly provisions in order to greenwash their intentions dub the bill a "compromise," and claimed to have finally lined up enough support to override the governor, "unless someone lied to [House Speaker Melvin Neufeld]."

It’s painfully ironic that Kansas might move the ball into the EPA’s court, given the past week’s news, and considering that state officials recently told Congress that the Bush administration’s intransigence has helped bring about this fiasco. Our earlier favorable comparison between KS environmental honcho Roderick Bremby and EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is also amplified by their divergent reactions to the hot seat: the former has publicly defended his decision, while the latter has infamously decided to dodge congressional testimony and subpoenas in Australia.

Finally, it bears mention that the full might of the anti-climate-regulation/denialist machine has been brought to bear on this issue (who can forget the infamous Ahmadiejad/Chavez/Putin ads?). An overwrought editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal—not that there’s any other kind from them on this topic, as Solve Climate has assiduously documented—accuses Sebelius of acting as though she were opposing "crimes against humanity" for daring to mention the moral implications of climate change (much in the same way the Supreme Court has). The current legislation was also greeted by an onslaught of Washington lobbyists testifying on its behalf, including former EPA official turned "Dirty Rotten Scoundrel" Bill Wehrum and born-again consumer-safety advocate Grover Norquist.

On Mass vs. EPA Anniversary, Stephen Johnson Delays and Hides 70

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 02 Apr 2008 22:33:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

johnsonOne year ago today, the Supreme Court handed down an epochal decision in the global warming case Massachusetts vs. the Environmental Protection Agency, stating that the EPA had the responsibility to determine how to regulate carbon dioxide for its contribution to global warming. The EPA, led by administrator Stephen L. Johnson, has utterly failed to do so, prompting a series of Congressional investigations and new lawsuits.

Johnson’s adversaries marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision today by continuing to press their case. Officials of 18 states filed suit against the EPA for its continued inaction—their petition “asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to require the EPA to act within 60 days.” By a unanimous vote, the House Global Warming Committee issued subpoenas “for EPA documents showing the Agency’s progress in making the ‘endangerment’ finding and proposing national emissions standards.”

The Supreme Court decision mandated that the EPA:
  • Declare whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health and need to be regulated;
  • Make a decision on California’s Clean Air Act petition to regulate motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Propose federal regulations for motor vehicle greenhouse emissions.
In the past year, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson has only completed one of those tasks, by denying California’s waiver petition following the signing of the 2007 Energy Act in December.

Investigations by Congress, though repeatedly stymied by the agency, have determined that EPA staff actually worked vigorously last year to meet the Court mandate. In late fall Johnson brought the complete package with a health endangerment finding, approval of the California waiver, and motor vehicle regulations to the White House. After that, Johnson issued his waiver denial and all work at the EPA on the issue ceased. Henry Waxman, chair of the House Oversight Committee, has vigorously pursued documents related to the California waiver denial, even as the EPA responds to his subpoenas with document requests of their own.

Johnson’s latest act was to declare last week that the EPA would release an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” asking for new round of comments, a delaying tactic promoted by a “memo from the Heritage Foundation.”

He is now fleeing to Australia with his top staff for two weeks to discuss the “ongoing environmental collaboration” between the countries—and fortuitously delay further Congressional hearings. The $280,000 trip is taxpayer-funded.

Under Subpoena, EPA Instead Demands Docs From Oversight Committee 28

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. . .

EPA Fully Embroiled in Scandal; Bush Changed Regulations 32

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 14 Mar 2008 10:44:00 GMT

EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson has taken significant heat from environmental groups, state officials, and Congress for his December denial of California’s Clean Air Act waiver request to enact AB 32 to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions (and the February release of his justification). Congressional investigations, though stonewalled repeatedly by Johnson, have revealed that unanimous staff recommendations to approve the waiver were overturned by the administrator.

The Supreme Court decision Mass. v. EPA, which compelled the agency to make a decision on the waiver, also required the agency to make an endangerment finding as to whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health and if so, to issue motor vehicle regulations. On Wednesday Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)’s Oversight Committee investigation revealed that Johnson in fact attempted to issue an endangerment finding and motor vehicle regulations in December, but was evidently overruled by the White House and Department of Transportation. Johnson is still being unresponsive to Waxman’s investigation, as well as the one newly opened by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) of the Global Warming Committee.

Late Wednesday night, the EPA issued new smog regulations, lowering the public health (primary) and public welfare (secondary) standards to 75 parts per billion from 84 ppb. The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin revealed that the EPA scientific panel was overruled in its recommendation to establish a much lower seasonal secondary standard to protect plantlife during the growing season:
Nearly a year ago, EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reiterated in writing that its members were “unanimous in recommending” that the agency set the standard no higher than 70 parts per billion (ppb) and to consider a limit as low as 60 ppb.

She goes on to note that on March 6, the Office of Management and Budget’s Susan E. Dudley sent a letter to the EPA asking them to consider the effect of a too strict regulation on “economic values and on personal comfort and well-being,”. EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus C. Peacock replied that “EPA cannot consider costs in setting a secondary standard,” with the cutting retort: “EPA is not aware of any information that ozone has beneficial effects on economic values or on personal comfort and well being.”

Today Eilperin further revealed that President Bush personally stepped in at the last minute to block the EPA’s intended secondary standard.
The president’s order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA’s past submissions to the Supreme Court, according to sources familiar with the conversation. As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard.

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