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Not to Beat This Stephen Johnson Resignation Push to Death…

…but the questions of potential perjury are not the only charges being leveled at the controversial EPA administrator. Yesterday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) delivered a lengthy tirade on the chamber floor outlining nine separate reasons he says Johnson is unfit for the job. The entire speech is worth reading, but here’s a quick summary of the charged ineptitude (which Matt has cataloged diligently):

One: Setting inadequate standards on ozone pollutants:

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.”

Two: Setting inadequate standards on lead pollutants:

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 up to 0.5 micrograms — two and a half times [higher than the recommendations].

Three: Inadequate standards on soot:

Administrator Johnson bowed to pressure from industry and failed to strengthen a decade-old standard limiting particulate matter pollution from smokestacks.

Four: Denying California’s proposed vehicle emissions waiver:

EPA staff indicated in briefing materials that “we don’t believe there are any good arguments against granting the waiver.” … Yet Administrator Johnson issued an unprecedented denial of that waiver.

Five: Refusal to tackle greenhouse gases:

[I]n 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 and warm our planet.

Six: A proclivity for leaning on dubious legal arguments:

When EPA tried to defend its weak mercury “cap and trade” system, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals — which as we know is 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.

Seven: Allowing industry “to infiltrate” the EPA’s advisory boards:

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

Eight: Political interference in decision-making (pointing to an April Union of Concerned Scientists’ report ):

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.

And nine: Altering EPA procedure to allow the White House’s Office of Management and Budget influence over decisions:

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

The speech arrived just as a quartet of Senate Democrats (including Whitehouse) called on U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey to investigate Johnson for discrepancies between his sworn testimony in January and that given by another EPA official last week.

Not that it should come as any surprise that a Bush administration appointee would place conservative ideology over the good of the country (see this week’s DoJ report on the “inexperienced punk,” Monica Goodling). But issues that affect folks from all ideologies — justice and the environment being two standouts — shouldn’t be held hostage by any one.

As the first EPA chief, William Ruckelshaus, said 38 years ago:

EPA is an independent agency. It has no obligation to promote agriculture or commerce; only the critical obligation to protect and enhance the environment.

That shouldn’t be controversial in any political environment.

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