EPA’s Johnson Claims ‘Ongoing Back Issues’ Prevent Him From Testifying Before Congress

As each day brings new scandals involving the Environmental Protection Agency to light, the pressure for EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to respond is growing. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee had scheduled a hearing for tomorrow with Johnson to testify on White House interference with ozone standards.

Today, Al Kamen reports that the hearing has been postponed because Johnson refused to appear:

EPA officials say Johnson had a “recurrence of ongoing back issues stemming from a car accident years ago.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is conducting a hearing right now into the politicization of EPA scientific decisions (live webcast). Administrator Johnson declined the invitation to appear.


The Wonk Room wishes Administrator Johnson well and hopes that his recurring back pain subsides. Once he recovers, he should be ready to testify on these and other ongoing scandals involving his agency:

EPA SCANDALCURRENT STATUSThe denial of the California waiver petition.

  • January 8: California and 15 other states sue to overturn denial.
  • April 9: Waxman issues latest subpoena for documents involving White House.
  • April 22: NHTSA issues fuel-economy standards that it claims preempts state global warming standards; states warn of lawsuit.

Failure to obey Supreme Court mandate to make a global warming pollution endangerment finding.

  • March 27: EPA announces it will ask for a new round of comments.
  • April 2: Officials of 18 states sue to require the EPA to act within 60 days
  • April 2: EPA documents are subpoenaed by House Global Warming Committee; the documents have not been turned over.
  • April 18: Court orders EPA to file its response to the state suit by May 8.

White House interference in ozone standards.

  • April 16: Waxman subpoenas White House documents.
  • May 8: Date of scheduled Oversight Committee hearing with Administrator Johnson; postponed when Johnson refuses to appear.

Mary Gade firing.

  • May 1: EPA Region V Administrator Mary Gade resigns, saying “There’s no question this is about Dow.” Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Dingell (D-MI) announce intent to investigate.
  • May 7: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington file two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the EPA regarding Gade’s resignation.

Politicization of the EPA.

  • April 23: Union of Concerned Scientists issues survey of 1600 staff scientists describing mass politicization and political interference.
  • April 29: Sen. Boxer (D-CA) releases Goverment Accountability Office report detailing politicization of toxic regulation.
  • May 7: Senate Environment and Public Works Oversight Subcommittee holds hearing into politicization of EPA.

UPDATE: Council on Foreign Relations fellow and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson argues today in the Washington Post:

There are few things in American politics more irrationally ideological, more fanatically faith-based, than the accusation that Republicans are conducting a “war on science.”

UPDATE II: The Sacramento Bee reports that the EPA will probably not regulate toxic rocket fuel contamination of water:

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, EPA assistant water chief Benjamin Grumbles did not dispute studies showing that perchlorate increases risks of brain damage in fetuses and infants and thyroid disorders in adults.

But, Grumbles said, there’s a “distinct possibility” the environmental agency won’t take action because they don’t know whether regulation would meaningfully reduce those risks.