Democratic senators: EPA Director Johnson should resign

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 7/30/2008

Several Democratic senators have called for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to resign amid complaints that he failed to appear before numerous committee hearings and “stonewalled” efforts for congressional oversight of his agency.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, called Tuesday, July 29, for the resignation of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson saying he gave “misleading testimony” to Congress, didn’t cooperate with congressional oversight and made agency decisions politically rather than by using scientific evidence.

Boxer is chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and Whitehouse, Klobuchar and Lautenberg are committee members.

In a written statement issued by her office, Boxer came out swinging Tuesday, accusing Johnson of among other things, choosing “special interest over the American people’s interests in protecting health and safety.”

“Even before his Senate confirmation, Mr. Johnson supported a program to spray pesticides around infants and young children and then study the toxic effects,” Boxer’s statement read. “This program was called CHEERS, but it was nothing to cheer about. Revelations about this controversial program resulted in its cancellation. However, Stephen Johnson’s strong support for this program led me to oppose his nomination.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has had multiple hearings regarding the EPA’s handling of a waiver request by California that sought permission to enforce the nation’s first greenhouse gas emissions standard for cars and light trucks. California and more than 12 other states want to enforce the standards on new vehicles.

Johnson denied California’s request, the first such denial in more than 50 waiver requests.

In a joint statement, Sens. Boxer, Whitehouse, Klobuchar and Lautenberg said Johnson stated that Johnson based his decision on California’s failure to meet criteria required under the Clean Air Act, saying the decision was “mine and mine alone.”

Former EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett, however, testified recently that Johnson determined California did meet the Clean Air Act criteria but decided not to grant the waiver after White House officials told him President Bush preferred a single regulatory system rather than dual systems of regulations shared between states and the federal government.

The group of senators criticized Johnson for refusing to appear before congressional committees seeking his testimony, and for failing to produce materials requested by Congress.

“The American people deserve an Environmental Protection Agency that lives up to its name,” Lautenberg said. “Yet on issue after issue, whether fighting global warming or giving communities the right to know about pollution in their neighborhoods, Administrator Johnson has protected industry as the expense of the American people. It is time for new leadership at the EPA.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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