EPA Climate Career Staff Call Administrator's Actions 'Unprofessional,' 'Unprecedented,' 'Damaging' 5

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Aug 2008 21:37:00 GMT

In a letter addressed to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the presidents of four unions representing career EPA scientists write of their collective dismay at Johnson’s handling of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson criticized his own agency’s work, calling the Clean Air Act “ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.” In addition, letters of comment criticizing the rulemaking draft were attached from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy.

This July 30 letter, published by Publice Employees for Environmental Responsibility, reveals that the EPA staff were not allowed to review these letters of criticism before they were prepended to the ANPR. The union presidents write:
“The way in which you subverted the work of EPA staff in your preamble statement on the merits of the supporting rationale for the ANPRM was as unprecedented as it was stunning to your staff and damaging to EPA’s reputation for sound science and policy.”

They conclude: “We hope that in your final days in office you will try to rectify some of this damage and remove some of the tarnish from your legacy.”

Full text:

It is in the spirit of partnership between EPA workers and managers toward fulfilling the Agency’s mission that we address this letter to you.

We write on behalf of the EPA employees that we represent to express our collective dismay over the way in which the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), “Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under the Clean Air Act,” was presented for public comment.

The way in which you subverted the work of EPA staff in your preamble statement on the merits of the supporting rationale for the ANPRM was as unprecedented as it was stunning to your staff and damaging to EPA’s reputation for sound science and policy. And the fact that EPA’s experts who worked on this ANPRM were not given the opportunity to read or address the adverse comments of OMB, USDA, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, and the Department of Transportation in advance of the ANPRM publication is troubling and, quite frankly, unprofessional. We believe that EPA’s hardworking, dedicated staff has earned more respect than you are giving. It makes your public and private pronouncements of thanks to EPA staff ring hollow. We would ask you to allow these EPA experts to submit responses to these agency submissions as part of the ANPRM public comment process.

The decision to publish the critiques of other agencies in the name of “transparency” in decision-making is both disingenuous and counterproductive. A far more direct contribution would be made to the credibility and transparency of EPA decision-making if you cooperated with congressional requests for documents and hearings. The professional staff of EPA has nothing to hide. In fact, contrary to your assertions of executive privilege, the free flow of policy recommendations would be aided by opening up all (not just selected) communications to public scrutiny.

Based on the media-covered responses to the ANPRM in the Wall Street Journal 1 and from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s William Kovacs2, EPA is being portrayed as foolish and dictatorial. Your action has lent support to critics like those above and the indicted former Congressman Tom Delay who characterize EPA’s civil servants – who are sworn to duty and charged with helping to protect the environment – as virtual enemies of the United States, an outrage that is unacceptable. We fear your action may make it more difficult for EPA and your successor, whether he or she takes office in January or before, to act decisively to protect the environment and public health. Without the public’s respect and support, EPA’s work to implement the environmental laws of our nation is jeopardized. The silence from your office in the face of such calumny and your failure to come to the Agency’s defense, wounds us far more than the ranting of Delay, Kovacs and the Wall Street Journal.

You were once one of us. We were proud when you were nominated as the first of us to occupy the Administrator’s Office, and we expected great things. Our disappointment is profound. We hope that in your final days in office you will try to rectify some of this damage and remove some of the tarnish from your legacy.

Sen. Whitehouse: 'I Call On Administrator Johnson To Resign' 1

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 30 Jul 2008 12:04:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Following a press conference with senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) formally announced on the Senate floor their request for a Department of Justice investigation into the potential criminal conduct of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, whom he called “a man after Spiro Agnew’s own heart.”

Whitehouse listed five charges of “putting the interests of corporate polluters before science and the law” in ozone, lead, soot, tailpipe emissions, and global warming pollution; and four charges of degrading “the procedures and institutional safeguards that sustain the agency;” before discussing his apparent dishonesty in testimony before Congress>

And in what is perhaps the gravest matter of all, I believe the Administrator deliberately and repeatedly lied to Congress, creating a false picture of the process that led to EPA’s denial of the California waiver, in order to obscure the role of the White House in influencing his decision.

Today, Senator Boxer and I have sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey, asking him to investigate whether Administrator Johnson gave false and misleading statements, whether he lied to Congress, whether he committed perjury, and whether he obstructed Congress’s investigation into the process that led to the denial of the California waiver request.

Watch it:

After listing yet more “signs of an agency corrupted in every place the shadowy influence of the Bush White House can reach,” Sen. Whitehouse concluded:

Administrator Johnson suggests a man who has every intention of driving his agency onto the rocks, of undermining and despoiling it, of leaving America’s environment and America’s people without an honest advocate in their federal government.

This behavior not only degrades his once-great agency – it drives the dagger of dishonesty deep in the very vitals of American democracy.

The American people cannot accept such a person in a position of such great responsibility. I am sorry it has come to this, but I call on Administrator Johnson to resign his position.

I yield the floor.

Watch it:

Join Sen. Whitehouse in calling for Johnson’s resignation here.

Full text of Sen. Whitehouse’s speech:

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, for most of its nearly four-decade history, Americans could look to the Environmental Protection Agency for independent leadership, grounded in science and the rule of law. It was an agency whose sole mission was to protect our environment and our health.

At its founding, EPA’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, stated unequivocally, and I quote: “EPA is an independent agency. It has no obligation to promote agriculture or commerce; only the critical obligation to protect and enhance the environment.”

During the tenure of Administrator Stephen Johnson, we have seen that clear mission darkened by the shadowy handiwork of the Bush White House, trampling on science, ignoring the facts, flouting the law, kneeling before industry polluters, defying Congress and the courts, and all in the service of rank and venal purposes.

Under Administrator Johnson, EPA is an agency in distress, in dishonor, and in bad hands. Events last week have shed new light on the extent of the damage done to this great agency, but the evidence of Mr. Johnson’s dismal record has been growing for many months.

The charges are serious, and fall in three separate categories: his repeated decisions putting the interests of corporate polluters before science and the law, on questions critical to the protection of our environment and the health of the American people; his deliberate actions to degrade the procedures and institutional safeguards that sustain the agency; and his apparent dishonesty in testimony before Congress.

The particulars, Madam President, are these:

Count one: on pollution from ozone. The EPA under Administrator Johnson departed from the consistent recommendations of agency scientists, public health officials, and the agency’s own scientific advisory committees, and instead set an ozone standard that favored polluters.

The standard he set was inadequate to protect the public, especially children and the elderly, from the harmful effects of ozone pollution, from asthma and lung disease.

Indeed it was so inadequate that EPA’s own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) took the unique step of writing to the Administrator to state that they “do not endorse the new primary ozone standard as being sufficiently protective of the public health” and that the EPA’s decision “fail[ed] to satisfy the explicit stipulations of the Clean Air Act that you ensure an adequate margin of safety for all individuals, including sensitive populations.”

Setting this inadequate standard, against the evidence, was a dereliction of Administrator Johnson’s duty to the agency he leads, and of EPA’s duty to protect the health of the American people.

Count two: on pollution from lead. Administrator Johnson has proposed a standard that fails to sufficiently strengthen the regulation aimed at limiting exposure to lead pollution.

Lead has poisoned tens of thousands of children in Rhode Island, and many more all over the country. Both an independent scientific review panel and EPA’s own scientific staff recommended a lead standard of no greater than 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, yet Administrator Johnson proposed a range of 0.1 to 0.5 micrograms.

Mr. Johnson further diluted even that lax standard by using what public health advocates have labeled “statistical trickery,” allowing polluters a longer period of time over which to average the amount of lead they discharge into the air.

Again, by not adequately protecting children from lead, Administrator Johnson was derelict in his duty to his agency.

Count three: on pollution from soot, technically called “particulate matter,” Administrator Johnson bowed to pressure from industry and failed to strengthen a decade-old standard limiting particulate matter pollution from smokestacks.

Again, the agency’s own scientific advisory committees had called for a tougher standard to protect public health. Again, Administrator Johnson yielded to polluters. Again, Administrator Johnson failed in his duty to the agency he leads.

Count four: on vehicle tailpipe emissions, Administrator Johnson denied a waiver that would have allowed the state of California, my state of Rhode Island, and many other states to enact strict restrictions on global warming pollution from automobiles.

EPA staff indicated in briefing materials that “we don’t believe there are any good arguments against granting the waiver.” EPA lawyers cautioned that all of the arguments against granting the waiver were “likely to lose in court.” Yet Administrator Johnson issued an unprecedented denial of the waiver.

I will separately discuss my grave concerns about the Administrator’s testimony on this matter (I believe he has lied to us), but for this purpose now, looking only at the substantive outcome, in ignoring the law, the dictates of science, the recommendations of his regulatory and legal staff, the role of Congress, the wishes of the states, and the welfare of the American people, Administrator Johnson failed again in his duty to the agency he leads.

Count five: on global warming pollution, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. E.P.A., Administrator Johnson has failed to take action after the Court’s ruling that EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our air.

It is now nearly 18 months since the Court’s decision, and the EPA has shown no indication it will act before President Bush leaves office. In ignoring a ruling of this nation’s highest court empowering him to act on a matter important to the public health of Americans, Administrator Johnson again failed in his duty to the agency he leads.

But it was not enough for Administrator Johnson to rule for the polluters on pollutant after pollutant.

Administrator Johnson has also systematically dismantled institutional safeguards and processes that protect his agency’s integrity and guide its mission.

Jonathan Cannon, who served at EPA during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations, warns of “extreme friction within the agency and institutional damage … demoralizing the legal staff, and … further separating staff from the political leadership at the agency.” We saw similar sabotage of institutional safeguards in the Gonzales Department of Justice, and this institutional damage raises four further charges:

Count six: on the question of the Agency’s legal integrity, under Administrator Johnson, the EPA offered legal arguments for its insufficient standards so shallow they provoked ridicule by the courts that heard them. When EPA tried to defend its weak mercury “cap and trade” system, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals – hardly a liberal bench – accused the agency of employing the “logic of the Queen of Hearts” in attempting to evade the intent of Congress and the clear meaning of the Clean Air Act.

The same court said EPA’s argument under the Clean Air Act allowing power companies to avoid upgrading their pollution control technologies made sense only in “a Humpty Dumpty world.” In adopting Wonderland legal analysis that contravenes the clear will of Congress and embarrasses his agency before the courts, Administrator Johnson failed in his duty to uphold the mission of the agency he leads.

Count seven: on the integrity of EPA’s scientific advisory boards, Administrator Johnson did not just ignore their recommendations. He willingly allowed those panels to be infiltrated by the very industries they are meant to regulate and control.

For example, an employee of Exxon Mobil served on the panel to assess the carcinogenicity of ethyl oxide – a chemical manufactured by Exxon Mobil.

Another scientist received research support from Dow Agro and served on that panel, even though ethyl oxide is also manufactured by Dow Agro.

A scientist whose research was funded by American Cyanamid and CYTEC sits on the EPA panel on acrylamide – which is manufactured by American Cyanamid and marketed by CYTEC. EPA didn’t see any conflict of interest.

By way of contrast, at the beck and call of the American Chemistry Council, an industry lobby group, Administrator Johnson removed Dr. Deborah Rice, a prominent toxicologist, from a scientific review board investigating chemicals used in common plastic goods.

The industry argued that she had a conflict of interest. Incredibly, the conflict of interest was that, at a public hearing in Maine as a representative of the state’s government, she had stated her professional opinion regarding the dangers associated with these chemicals, and the industry didn’t like her professional opinion.

Not only was Dr. Rice removed, but in a particularly Orwellian maneuver, the fact that she had ever been on the panel was stricken from the advisory committee’s records.

In packing EPA’s scientific panels to please industry polluters, Administrator Johnson is guilty of a particularly chilling dereliction of his duty to the agency he leads.

Count eight: a report issued on April 23 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, entitled “Interference at the EPA,” uncovered widespread political influence in EPA decisions. The report found that 60 percent of EPA career scientists surveyed had personally experienced at least one incident of political interference during the past five years.

The report documented, among other things, that many EPA scientists have been directed to inappropriately exclude or alter information from EPA science documents, or have had their work edited in a manner that resulted in changes to their scientific findings.

The survey also revealed that EPA scientists have often objected to, or resigned or removed themselves from, EPA projects because of pressure to change scientific findings.

Allowing this corrosive political influence to persist among the career scientists at EPA is yet another dereliction of Administrator Johnson’s duty to the agency he leads.

Count nine: Administrator Johnson has twisted the very administrative procedures of EPA, to allow the White House Office of Management and Budget secret influence over agency decisionmaking.

For example, the IRIS process for determining the toxicity of chemicals allows OMB three separate chances to exert its dark influence, at the beginning, in the middle, and again at the end. In the words of the GAO, this process is “inconsistent with the principle of sound science that relies on, among other things, transparency.”

This is not just a potential concern. The current chair of EPA’s clean air scientific advisory panel has testified that the ozone standard was “[set]…by fiat behind closed doors,” that the entire agency scientific process was “for naught,” that “the OMB and the White House set the standard, even though theoretically it was set by the EPA Administrator,” and that as a result, “Willful ignorance triumphed over sound science.” That is her testimony.

In manipulating his agency processes to let willful ignorance triumph over sound science, Administrator Johnson has again been derelict in his duties to this once-proud agency.

The third and final category of charges relates to Johnson’s relationship to Congress. In defiance of his charge under the Constitution of the United States, Administrator Johnson has personally and repeatedly refused to cooperate with Congress in our efforts to conduct proper oversight of the executive branch.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has repeatedly requested documents in connection with EPA’s denial of the California waiver and its failure adequately to regulate ozone pollution, in an effort to determine whether the White House improperly influenced these decisions.

Administrator Johnson has rebuffed these requests. He has repeatedly declined to appear before the EPW Committee to explain his agency’s policies, and when he has appeared, he has resorted to canned, stock, evasive answers in response to legitimate questions about political influence infiltrating his agency.

Just last week, he refused to appear before the Judiciary Committee, on which I also serve, for a hearing to look further into his failure to cooperate with Congress and provide documents and other information we have sought.

And in what is perhaps the gravest matter of all, I believe the Administrator deliberately and repeatedly lied to Congress, creating a false picture of the process that led to EPA’s denial of the California waiver, in order to obscure the role of the White House in influencing his decision.

Today, Senator Boxer and I have sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey, asking him to investigate whether Administrator Johnson gave false and misleading statements, whether he lied to Congress, whether he committed perjury, and whether he obstructed Congress’s investigation into the process that led to the denial of the California waiver request. I ask unanimous consent that the letter and its attached recitation be made part of the record as an exhibit to these remarks.

Madam President, there is more. These are not isolated counts, but signs of an agency corrupted in every place the shadowy influence of the Bush White House can reach.

Administrator Johnson forced the resignation of EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Midwest, Mary Gade, who was locked in a struggle with corporate polluter Dow Chemical Co. The circumstances are highly suspicious. Now, Administrator Johnson has replaced Ms. Gade with a former attorney for the automobile industry, whose record on behalf of the environment has been described as “horrible.”

The EPA under Administrator Johnson has reduced the reporting burdens on industries that release toxic chemicals into our land, sea and air.

It has weakened enforcement and monitoring by opening fewer criminal investigations, filing fewer lawsuits, and levying fewer fines against corporate polluters.

It has failed to protect agency employees who pointed out problems, reported legal violations, or attempted to correct factual misrepresentations made by their superiors, and has fostered an atmosphere where agency scientists fear reprisals.

And in the face of widespread criticism that his agency is in crisis, and that he is a pawn of the White House and its allies in polluting industries, Administrator Johnson’s only response is to label those concerned – many of whom are dedicated career employees of his agency – as “yammering critics.” A man after Spiro Agnew’s own heart.

The EPA has a vital mission. When this great agency is weakened and its work subverted by political interference, there is a great cost to this country.

When EPA scientists and career employees become discouraged as their voices go unheard, there is a great cost to our country.

When the people of America lose faith that the Environmental Protection Agency can live up to its name, there is a great cost to our country.

And when those who were chosen to serve this country instead serve themselves, their political allies, and their patrons, there is a great and lasting cost to this country. It is a failure of integrity, and that is a failure we can no longer afford.

We demand integrity – democracy demands integrity – of our public officials, not just because integrity is an abstract moral good, but because democracy fails without it.

Integrity sustains our democracy in at least three ways.

The first is integrity to the truth. In government, when the facts are clear enough for responsible people to act, it is a failure of integrity to fail to confront those facts. As the late Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.”

America has traditionally been characterized by candid and practical assessment of the facts, a can-do attitude about responding to those facts, and bold decision-making to find our way through those facts. Practical, can-do, optimistic, realistic – that’s the American way.

When government doesn’t face the truth about the facts, it will almost certainly fail to meet the demands of the moment and fail to serve the interests of our people. That is what is happening now at EPA. They simply won’t face facts plain to any responsible person.

But facts are stubborn things. They do not yield to ideology or influence. They do not care about your politics. Unanswered, they stand, getting worse, and eventually the piper must be paid.

If facts aren’t candidly, realistically, and responsibly faced, not only will the problem get worse, but the very capacity of government to address problems candidly, realistically, and responsibly will itself degrade when not put to use. So there are ugly, lasting consequences when government officials fail at their obligation to meet the truth head on.

Another integrity is to honesty. As failures of truth have a harsh cost in government, so do failures in honesty.

I have sworn in new Assistant United States Attorneys. I have sworn in new state Assistant Attorneys General. I have presided at nomination hearings.

Every time, I have seen the same thing – a little spark of fire; a moral fire sparked when someone makes a choice to earn less money than they could otherwise, to work a lot harder than they would otherwise, to dare greater challenges than they might otherwise, all in order to serve a larger purpose, to serve an ideal, to serve America.

This spark of fire inspires young men and women to tackle problems that may seem unmanageable. This spark of fire keeps people at their desks late into the night when others have gone home to their families. This spark of fire brings idealism and principle to decisions, and illuminates a moral path in the complexities of government.

The value in government of that spark of fire, burning in the hearts of a thousand men and women – our real thousand points of light – is immeasurable. EPA is sustained by that spark of fire.

But this spark of fire is quenched in the toxic atmosphere of dishonesty when guiding principles are “help your friends,” “please your patron,” “dodge your responsibilities,” and “fudge the truth.” Dishonesty and idealism do not cohabit.

The third integrity is competence. This is a vital integrity. If we are to address the present and looming problems a new administration will have to solve—a war without end in Iraq, an economy in a sickening slide, a broken health care system, a country divided into two increasingly separate Americas, a public education system that is failing, the dangerous weight of an alarming national debt, foreign policies that have unhinged us from responsible world opinion, bickering and irresolution on problems like immigration and global warming – we must see competence as a core integrity.

We must demand competence of government officials as a bare minimum, a core necessity. Unfortunately, as one discouraged official has complained, “In the Bush administration, loyalty is the new competence.”

Madam President, Administrator Stephen Johnson is a failure in all these dimensions.

From everything we have seen, Administrator Johnson has done the bidding of the Bush Administration and its political allies without hesitation or question.

He has tried to cover up his dereliction of duty with evasive and discreditable testimony; he has acted without regard for the law or the determinations of the courts; he has damaged the mission, the morale, and the integrity of his great department; and he has betrayed his solemn duty to Americans who depend on him to protect their health, particularly our very youngest and our very oldest, those whose vulnerability is greatest.

Administrator Johnson suggests a man who has every intention of driving his agency onto the rocks, of undermining and despoiling it, of leaving America’s environment and America’s people without an honest advocate in their federal government.

This behavior not only degrades his once-great agency – it drives the dagger of dishonesty deep in the very vitals of American democracy.

The American people cannot accept such a person in a position of such great responsibility. I am sorry it has come to this, but I call on Administrator Johnson to resign his position.

I yield the floor.

Appeals Court Rejects Petition to Order EPA to Make Global Warming Endangerment Finding 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 27 Jun 2008 11:46:00 GMT

The U.S. District Court of Appeals has unanimously rejected a petition requesting it require the Environmental Protection Agency to issue its long-delayed finding as to whether greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health and welfare. The petition had been filed by officials of 18 states exactly a year after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which ordered the EPA to issue an endangerment finding.

Since that time, Congressional and journalistic investigations have discovered that Administrator Stephen Johnson, with assistant deputy administrator Jason K. Burnett, worked to obey the Supreme Court decision and completed its work for submission to the White House on December 5, 2007. But the White House refused to accept the work, literally keeping Burnett’s email unopened and ordering him to retract the message. He refused to do so, and has since resigned.

The White House overrode the EPA decision to make the endangerment finding, to grant California a waiver to issue its own greenhouse tailpipe emissions regulations, and to recommend federal standards. Instead, Johnson denied California’s waiver and is expected to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking sometime soon with draft emissions standards (he has missed his self-imposed deadline of the end of spring).

EPA's New Ozone Standards

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 20 May 2008 17:00:00 GMT

The hearing, originally scheduled for May 8, will examine the new ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) and the process the Environmental Protection Agency used in setting them.

On March 12, 2008, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson finalized updated NAAQS for ozone, a primary component of smog. The new ozone NAAQS are comprised of a revised primary standard to protect health and a revised secondary standard to protect the environment. In setting both standards, EPA Administrator Johnson did not accept the recommendations provided to him by EPA’s independent scientific review committee, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). With regard to the secondary standard, Administrator Johnson’s efforts to set a new standard were overruled by the White House.

In light of new information obtained by the Committee, questions are also expected regarding the White House’s role in EPA’s action to block California’s program to regulate greenhouse gases from automobiles.

Witnesses

Panel I
  • Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Susan E. Dudley, Administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
  • Dr. Rogene Henderson, Chair, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee
Panel II
  • Dr. Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist, Union Of Concerned Scientists
  • Michael Goo, Climate Legislative Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Dr. Roger O. McClellan, Advisor, Toxicology and Human Heath Risk Analysis
  • Alan Charles Raul, Partner, Sidley Austin, LLP

1:50 Waxman We have seen White House interference with federal agencies in the run-up to the Iraq War, torture, and US Attorneys. The record is overwhelming that EPA’s experts all supported grating the waiver petition.

EPA’s expert advisory committee unanimously recommended a new standard for protecting the environment. Johnson supported the new seasonal standard. He said there was ‘no evidence’ for a different standard.

Our investigation has not been able to find any evidence President Bush based his decision on the science or the law. I support the broad powers the Constitution vests with the President, but he does not have unlimited powers and he is not above the law.

1:55 Issa We’re all entitled to our opinions, not our facts. The appropriate role of the President was established by the Constitution. President Clinton offered a prime example of an executive involved in regulatory actions. We know that on March 12, Susan Dudley sent a memo to the EPA indicating President Bush’s decision on the ozone standard. It does not reflect any unusual or improper action. The Clinton executive order makes it clear that the President will decide disputes between OIRA and the EPA. The President agreed with OIRA’s conclusions.

Claiming that science dictates a certain outcome is contrary to science and law.

2:05 Waxman It’s the policy to swear in the witnesses. Your prepared statements have been submitted. Please keep your oral opening statements within five minutes.

Johnson I’m pleased to discuss EPA’s decision to significantly increase ozone standards. Since 1980, ozone levels have been cut by 20 percent. I concluded the 1997 no longer protected public health with an adequate level of safety. I chose 0.075 ppm as the 8-hour standard. I proposed a three-month standard to address plants’ cumulative exposure to ozone. As required by Executive Order 12866, I coordinated with other agencies. I believe it is time to modernize the Clean Air Act. Congress has adopted these principles in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Clean Air Act is not a relic, but a living document.

2:10 Dudley Pursuant to Executive Order 12866, OIRA coordinates interagency review. Both OMB and EPA have been forthright on the ozone standards. No changes were made to the level or form of the health-based standard. Discussions of the secondary standard were exclusively on the form.

2:15 Henderson I’m testifying as the current chair of EPA’s CASAC. Dudley’s first memo was clearly disputed by Marcus Peacock. So the next memo she wrote said Bush made the decision. CASAC has been accused from wandering from scientific issues into policy. In this case policymakers have wandered into science. If the Administrator sets a standard outside the range outside the CASAC’s recommendations, one should ask whose advice he based his decision on. I would like to quote from Dr. Paul Gilman, “Setting the standards by fiat, behind closed doors, is not in our best interest.”

2:23 Waxman You’re the chair of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. Are the standards EPA Administrator Johnson set consistent with the science?

Henderson It is not consistent with the CASAC recommendations, which are based on the science.

Henderson We always recommend a range.

Waxman Did he select a number within the range?

Henderson No.

Johnson I would respectfully disagree with the characterization. I did agree with CASAC that the current standard was insufficient.

Waxman You think that you set the standard within the science. Your professional views may be scientific and legally correct. You recommended the secondary standard be set on cumulative exposure?

Johnson More correctly there were two options. Other agencies preferred a different option. The President provided input. Ultimately I made the decision.

Waxman As the head of the EPA you recommended a proposal. OMB didn’t like that proposal. You ultimately agreed with their proposal.

Johnson More accurately, I agreed with CASAC that a cumulative standard is most biologically accurate.

Waxman I want a direct answer.

Johnson I don’t believe it’s a yes or no question. There was one preferred by EPA, and one preferred by OMB. I think it’s good government.

Waxman Your staff said it was pure politics. And this isn’t the only time you were reversed by the White House. Jason Burnett said you recommended that you grant the California waiver. After talking to the White House, you changed your mind.

Johnson If you look through the 1000s of pages, it shows a very deliberative process where I considered all options.

Waxman Burnett told us under oath that you recommended a partial grant. Your staff also told us you recommended emissions standards.

Johnson It’s true there was a draft endangerment finding before the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed.

Waxman We interviewed 7 senior career EPA officials and they told us the same thing. The recommendation was submitted in the first week of December, and then all work stopped. You’ve become a figurehead. Three times you recommended to deal with climate change and protect the environment, three times you back down. Congress passes the law, the Executive Branch is supposed to faithfully execute them. The President seems to think he can do what he pleases. Let’s go to this ozone decision.

Johnson There were many uncertainties. That’s why I chose the primary form. It’s a very transparent process. I think that’s good government.

2:36 Issa You’re a career professional.

Johnson I came to EPA in 1980.

Issa You’re not a political appointee.

Johnson I’m a career professional and a political appointee.

Issa Today we’re talking about a reduction and trying to go through what good deed goes unpunished. Is Mr. Waxman’s district in compliance with the ozone standard? Has it ever been?

Johnson No. The law prohibits me from considering costs. I believe there’s an opportunity to improve the Clean Air Act. I think it’s unconscionable to have communities not in compliance with the standard for twenty years.

Issa For CO2, it’s time for Congress to act.

Johnson I wholeheartedly agree. Dealing with a global air pollutant, my experience is that a legislative fix is correct. I believe global climate change, greenhouse emissions need to be addressed. I’m issuing an advanced notice of a rulemaking process this spring.

Issa Today we appear to be having a hearing about whether a 11% reduction is worse than a 16% reduction.

Johnson That’s certainly a view. I wholeheartedly agreed with CASAC that it needs to be reduced.

Issa Basically, if 2,3,4 years from now we’ve achieved a portion of this reduction, there’s nothing to stop this from happening at any time.

Johnson We’re required every five years to review each and every one of these standards. The Agency has never met the five-year requirement. We’re required to make these evaluations.

2:44 Bilbray I don’t come from a business background. I come from a regulatory background. Sheer population has been ignored from the environmental impact. Doctor, you serve on one of the most critical bodies. Back in the 90s, when California petitioned for a waiver for MTBE, were you involved?

Henderson My chairmanship began in 2004.

Bilbray What was the Clinton justification for requiring us to put MTBE and ethanol in our fuel?

Johnson It was before my time.

Bilbray Mr. Chairman, I was outraged at the time that the Clinton administration was bowing to political pressure. For us to point fingers at one administration when we waited for a decade is wrong.

2:45 Tierney What did you mean by “willful ignorance”?

Henderson I don’t believe OMB actually read our documents. It bothers me that when all the hard work went in for a secondary standard, someone can just say, “Nope, can’t do that.”

Tierney You want to respond?

Johnson The record clearly indicates it was a difficult decision.

Tierney An EPA lawyer wrote, “We could be exposed to a contempt proceeding.” Mr. Johnson, I think what’s happening is pretty unacceptable. By your own words, it was “necessary” and “compelling” to set this secondary standards. Nearly 1000 scientists said they experienced at least one instance of political interference.

Johnson I’d like to quote to you, if I may, Dr. Paul Gilman, “EPA has become too politicized in its actions.” That was the Clinton administration.

Tierney Are you proud of what’s going on now?

Johnson I’m proud. My role as Administrator is to evaluate the science.

Bilbray UCS Survey?

Johnson I am aware the survey was received by political appointees and non-scientists.

Bilbray For this to be used as some kind of scientific document. No pollster would accept this. Doctor, in your analysis, was their a consideration of economic impact?

Henderson We are not allowed to consider costs. We did consider what was biologically relevant. I have a concern for the affect of ozone on vegetation as well as people. We are neglecting the rural areas.

Bilbray How long have you been chairman?

Henderson Four years.

Bilbray You didn’t talk about economic value of crops that could have been destroyed.

3:00 Johnson I’m not allowed to consider costs or whether it can be implemented or not. With all science there are uncertainties. Judgment needs to be exercised.

Henderson Welfare includes but is not limited to … economic well-being.

3:02 Higgins I’d like to focus on the primary standard and health impacts. Did you find the primary standard to be sufficient?

Henderson No.

Johnson I disagree.

Higgins EPA estimated 350 more deaths, 10,000 asthma attacks, 750 emergency hospital visits, at your standard.

Johnson The Clean Air Act does not require zero risk. It is the most health-protective standard of our nation’s history. I’m very proud of that.

Higgins I have a letter from the American Lung Association strongly critiquing this decision. Your decision seems to be inconsistent with mainstream thinking. It’s just not credible to argue your decision is based on science.

Johnson I disagree. It is the most health-protective standard of our nation’s history. Ultimately, I need to make the tough decision.

3:08 Platts I yield to Issa.

Issa Could we put the map up on the board. My understanding that everywhere that’s dark – which unfortunately includes most of California – there’s no effective difference between primary and secondary standard.

3:18 Hodes With all due respect I’m asking the questions. Do you recall or not recall discussing costs with the White House?

Johnson Even if I recall, I don’t want to answer the question.

Hodes Are you asserting privilege?

Johnson I’m not asserting privilege.

Hodes Do you or don’t you recall?

Johnson Even if I recall, I don’t believe if it is appropriate to answer the question.

3:20 Sarbanes Explain your memo.

Dudley The air quality based on the secondary standard is the same. What we care about is air quality. The two standards would have the same effect.

Sarbanes I’m incredulous. The administrator said he found “compelling” evidence that a cumulative index is the best way to measure effects on vegetation. I could see you asserting inadequate evidence, but that there was no evidence doesn’t seem to jive with all the other testimony and documentation.

Dudley There are two different issues here. The form of the standard won’t affect the air quality of those counties.

Sarbanes What you’re saying strikes me as doubletalk. Did the President or the White House indicate to you that there would be times when the science would be overriden by political purposes?

Johnson My charge and oath of office was to carry out the laws. The President said he wanted me to accelerate the environmental protection. I carried this out to the best of my ability, based on sound science. Science isn’t pure.

Sarbanes I can’t think of a clearer example of where your charge came into conflict with the Presidential edict.

3:26 Welch Jason Burnett is a senior member of the EPA. He’s been deposed. He testified you favored granting this waiver in full in August and September.

Johnson Over time…

Welch Let’s keep it simple. Is he correct in his recollection?

Johnson I don’t recall the August and September timeline. I was considering all options.

Welch Mr. Burnett said that in August and September you were favoring granting a waiver in full.

Johnson As I said, I considered all the options.

Welch It’s obvious you did. Is he right that you considered a partial grant?

Johnson Yes.

Welch Did you have a meeting with the President about this?

Johnson I have routine meetings with the President and the executive branch.

Welch Did you have a meeting with the President about this?

Johnson When and where…

Welch Does “transparent” mean we can’t know whether you met with the President?

Johnson I believe as Administrator I need to have private meetings with the President.

Welch Did I ask the content of the meeting? Did your staff present you a slide stating that the most legally defensible option was granting the waiver?

Johnson I don’t recall that particular slide.

Welch Did the EPA staff make it clear the statutory

Johnson There were a wide range of options.

Welch It’s a little frustrating.

Johnson It shouldn’t be frustrating.

Waxman You admitted you have a conversation with the President on the California waiver.

Johnson I have routine conversations.

Waxman You are being awfully evasive.

Johnson I have routine conversations.

Waxman Did you have any conversation with the President on any of these three rules?

Issa Regular order! I want a copy of the rules!

Waxman I will have the gentleman physically removed if he does not desist.

Waxman Did you have any conversation with the President on any of these three rules?

Johnson I have routine conversations, I don’t believe it is appropriate for me to discuss the content of these conversations.

Waxman Are you asserting privilege?

Johnson Not at this time.

3:36 Watson Was the Vice President’s office involved the California waiver?

Johnson Not to my knowledge.

Watson According to press accounts, the CEO of Ford and GM met with the Vice President’s office.

Johnson It’s not a problem unique to California.

Watson Was there any input from the White House that influenced your final decision?

Johnson My decision was based on the science and the law.

Watson Was there any input from the White House that influenced your final decision?

Johnson I have routine conversations…

Watson Yes or no.

Johnson The answer is, no, they did not make the decision.

Watson That was not my question. Maybe my English was not clear. In your routine conversations, was there any input from the Vice President?

Johnson I don’t recall any.

3:43 Issa Our deliberations are protected from discovery by the executive branch. It’s no surprise that you might wish the same privilege. You serve at the pleasure of the president, but he does not have authority over your actions. Is that correct?

Johnson Yes.

Issa Chairman Dingell declared regulation of CO2 a “glorious mess.”

Johnson I believe there are many intricacies with the Clean Air Act. My personal opinion is that given the years and years of litigation is to prefer a legislative approach.

3:46 Cummings This stuff is personal for me, because I have asthma. In my district in Baltimore my constituents have a high rate of asthma. We’re curious as to how our administrator, our man in the EPA makes his decisions. You’ve said “it’s not a popularity contest.” Do you remember saying that?

Johnson I do, and I agree with it.

Cummings All too frequently the courts have decided your decisions do not conform to the law. Did you know your decisions before the DC Circuit Court have been overturned over two thirds of the time?

Johnson Yes.

3:59 Waxman You were required to produce documents by April 19. Has the President asserted executive privilege with regards to these documents?

Johnson I’m not making an assertion of executive privilege, instead I’m making my staff available to you.

Dudley Our lawyers are discussing the documents. I have a letter from OMB General Counsel.

Waxman We’ve made reasonable accomodations to Executive Branch interests. You’re trying to shield the White House from oversight. Unless there’s a valid claim of executive privilege, you have to turn over the documents. There’s been no assertion of executive privilege. This is a serious issue, and your defiance of the subpoena is a serious matter.

4:02 Waxman The record shows this committee spared no effort in oversight of the Clinton administration.

Issa We have a long tradition of looking into it and recognizing the President has a role to play.

Johnson The challenge we have as a nation is to move forward. 50% of our electricity comes from coal. France is much less.

Issa You have a responsibility as a federal officer to all Americans. My understanding is protecting our commerce against arbitrary standards.

Johnson Again, I have three criteria. Acceleration of temperatures, other parts of the country make it worse. In my judgment, it did not meet the “compelling and extraordinary” standard.

4:09 Bilbray The standard that we’re complaining with the ozone standard. The science panel recommended a max of .07.

Henderson It was a range from .06 to .07.

Cannon

4:15 Johnson I have to say for the record those are not the criteria.

4:16 Waxman You’re willing to make a mockery of the rulemaking process. The record tells us what happened. Your testimony pretends none of this happened. I can’t adequate how deeply this saddens me and how poorly it reflects on the EPA.

Waxman: 'White House Involved in California Waiver Denial' 36

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 19 May 2008 18:25:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Henry WaxmanHouse Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has today released documents and testimony that show White House involvement in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to deny California’s request for a waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks.

According to testimony by former EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s “preference for a full or partial grant of the waiver did not change until after he communicated with the White House” :

When asked by Committee staff “whether the Administrator communicated with the White House in between his preference to do a partial grant and the ultimate decision” to deny the waiver, Mr. Burnett responded: “I believe the answer is yes.” When asked “after his communications with the White House, did he still support granting the waiver in part,” Mr. Burnett answered: “He ultimately decided to deny the waiver.” Mr. Burnett also affirmed that there was “White House input into the rationale in the December 19th letter” announcing the denial of the waiver and in the formal decision document issued in March 2008.

Burnett refused to testify on any further specifics, telling the investigators “that he had been directed not to answer any questions about the involvement of the White House in the decision to reject California’s petition.” Burnett, who was involved in a series of questionable EPA decisions during his tenure, resigned from the EPA on May 6.

On December 19, 2007, the date President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced that his agency would deny California’s waiver request. This request, made in 2005, set off a series of legal battles that culminated in the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts vs. EPA that ordered the EPA to take action on greenhouse gases. Since then, the EPA has failed to obey the Supreme Court mandate, despite the efforts of career staff.

Waxman’s memo concludes:
It would be a serious breach if the President or other White House officials directed Administrator Johnson to ignore the record before the agency and deny California’s petition for political or other inappropriate reasons. Further investigation will be required to assess the legality of the White House role in the rejection of the California motor vehicle standards.

Johnson is expected to testify before Waxman’s committee tomorrow at 1 PM.

Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch writes:
This is an incredibly sordid story. Steve Johnson should come out and finally tell the truth about this situation. And he should resign for agreeing not only to be a White House pawn but for trying to deceive the public about what happened.

Overview of EPA Investigations 11

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 08 May 2008 21:10:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

The scheduled Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today on White House interference with ozone standards has been the hearing has been postponed because EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson refused to appear:
EPA officials say Johnson had a “recurrence of ongoing back issues stemming from a car accident years ago.”

Below is the current status of a number of EPA scandals Congress is expecting Administrator Johnson to answer for:

EPA SCANDALCURRENT STATUS
The denial of the California waiver petition.
  • January 8: California and 15 other states sue to overturn denial.
  • April 9: Waxman issues latest subpoena for documents involving White House.
  • April 22: NHTSA issues fuel-economy standards that it claims preempts state global warming standards; states warn of lawsuit.
Failure to obey Supreme Court mandate to make a global warming pollution endangerment finding.
  • March 27: EPA announces it will ask for a new round of comments.
  • April 2: Officials of 18 states sue to require the EPA to act within 60 days
  • April 2: EPA documents are subpoenaed by House Global Warming Committee; the documents have not been turned over.
  • April 18: Court orders EPA to file its response to the state suit by May 8.
White House interference in ozone standards.
  • April 16: Waxman subpoenas White House documents.
  • May 8: Date of scheduled Oversight Committee hearing with Administrator Johnson; postponed when Johnson refuses to appear.
Mary Gade firing.
  • May 1: EPA Region V Administrator Mary Gade resigns, saying “There’s no question this is about Dow.” Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Dingell (D-MI) announce intent to investigate.
  • May 7: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington file two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the EPA regarding Gade’s resignation.
Politicization of the EPA.
  • April 23: Union of Concerned Scientists issues survey of 1600 staff scientists describing mass politicization and political interference.
  • April 29: Sen. Boxer (D-CA) releases Goverment Accountability Office report detailing politicization of toxic regulation.
  • May 7: Senate Environment and Public Works Oversight Subcommittee holds hearing into politicization of EPA.

EPA's New Ozone Standards - POSTPONED 11

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 08 May 2008 14:00:00 GMT

Witnesses

Panel I
  • Stephen Johnson, administrator, U.S. EPA
  • Susan Dudley, administrator, Federal Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
  • Rogene Henderson, chairwoman, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee

Panel II

  • Francesca Grifo, senior scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Michael Goo, climate legislative director, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Roger McClellan, adviser, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis
  • Alan Charles Raul, partner, Sidley Austin LLP.

Stephen Johnson, The Environment's Alberto Gonzales 5

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.

On Mass vs. EPA Anniversary, Stephen Johnson Delays and Hides 14

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.