EPA IN CRISIS.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Barbara Boxer, Henry Waxman, and other congressional Democrats are challenging EPA administrator Stephen Johnson's decision to deny California and 16 other states a waiver to allow them to set their own standards for carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles, and had subpoenaed internal EPA documents on the matter. Yesterday the Environment and Public Works Committee released some of those documents, which show an EPA "in crisis," as Boxer put it in a press conference yesterday. As all accounts already indicated, the memos reveal that Johnson rejected the advice of EPA staffers and caved to the Bush administration's ideological stance against meaningful action on climate change. An excerpt from the advice given to him by staff members from the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality:

From what I have read and the people I have talked to, it is obvious to me that there is no legal or technical justification for denying this. The law is very specific about what you are allowed to consider, and even if you adopt the alternative interpretations that have been suggested by the automakers, you still wind up in the same place.

The internal memos also revealed that staffers warned him of the risks of denying the waiver: "If you are asked to deny this waiver, I fear the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged." If he did deny the waiver, his staff advised him that he may have to resign from his post. This is just the latest instance of Johnson ignoring his staff and science in general to appease the Bush administration; asked in a hearing last month whether he thought climate change was a major crisis, Johnson retorted, "I don't know what you mean by major crisis."

His staffers were right on the California waiver; let's hope they're right about that resignation part. California is suing for the right to set tougher standards, and a Johnson-less EPA might make for an easier path for them and other states who want to take aggressive action on climate change.

--Kate Sheppard

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