Yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson decided to modestly tighten smog standards, a decision directly “overruling the unanimous advice of its scientific advisory council for a more protective standard.”
According to the LA Times, President Bush personally intervened to overrule EPA staff who were pushing to protect forests and crops:
President Bush intervened at the 11th hour and turned down a second proposal by the EPA staff that would have established tougher seasonal limits on ozone based on its harm to forests, crops and other plants, according to documents obtained by The Times. Federal scientists had recommended those growing-season limits as a way to keep vegetation healthy and capable of trapping carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming. [...]
Memos between the EPA and the White House Office of Management and Budget in the last week show that White House budget officials objected to proposed seasonal standards as being illegal over-regulation. EPA officials countered, but Bush weighed in late Tuesday, and a written order reflecting his decision turning down the proposal was completed.
Johnson has a history of ignoring his staff when they recommend tough environmental protections. His determination to politicize the EPA has led 19 EPA unions to withdraw from their partnership with the agency because Johnson has consistently “ignored the advice of unionized workers and the agency’s own principles of scientific integrity.”
In a related story, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to Johnson yesterday expressing his concern that “multiple senior EPA officials” have told him that EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions have been stymied. Since the EPA informed the White House in December that CO2 levels from motor vehicles needed to be reduced, “the work on the vehicle efforts has stopped.”
UPDATE: OMB Watch notes that in the months leading up to Johnson’s industry-friendly decision, the EPA “held numerous closed-door meetings with representatives from the oil, electric, and auto industries.” One of those meetings was attended by a representative from Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, although “Cheney’s office rarely involves itself in specific rulemakings.”