Tuesday, February 26, 2008

EPA Staff Urged Administrator To Resign If He Denied California Emissions Waiver


Last month, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California a waiver that would have allowed 16 states to implement landmark automobile greenhouse emissions reductions — against the advice of EPA staffers, who told Johnson that “California met every criteria” for the waiver request.

According to documents released by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today, EPA staff members believed Johnson “might have to consider resigning” if he turned down the waiver. A staff memo prepared for the head of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality to present to Johnson urged:

The eyes of the world are on you. … You have to find a way to get this done. If you cannot, you will face a pretty big personal decision about whether you are able to stay in the job under those circumstances. This is a choice only you can make, but I ask you to think about the history and the future of the agency in making it. If you are asked to deny this waiver, I fear the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged.

In a press conference today, Boxer displayed a document from May 1, 2007, when Johnson was to meet with White House staff to discuss the waiver. Johnson carried papers “in his pocket” urging him to grant the waiver, but he buckled to the White House, Boxer remarked:

A funny thing happened on the way to the White House. … Mr. Johnson goes into the White House with a briefing that tells him to fight for the waiver. And then, the waiver’s not granted.

Staff even thought they made headway with Johnson. “I think Johnson now better appreciates that there are additional conditions in CA that make them vulnerable to climate change,” said a Climate Change division staff on October 31, 2007. Nevertheless, Johnson overrode their advice in the end.

Johnson’s injection of President Bush’s politics into science is notorious. Earlier this year, he censored documents with white duct tape on the EPA’s decision-making process on the California waiver. Asked whether global warming was “a major crisis” facing the world, Johnson replied, “I don’t know what you mean by major crisis.”

Ironically, Boxer said today that the documents revealed an EPA “in crisis.”

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