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EPA Administrator Must Resign!

Posted Apr. 18, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

Stephen JohnsonEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson plays politics with the environment, disregards the advice of his staff experts, and repeatedly violates the law. Each additional day he remains in office endangers the planet and weakens the EPA. Johnson must go.

  1. Refused to obey Supreme Court ruling on global warming: In April 2007, the Supreme Court held in Mass v EPA that greenhouse gas emissions are pollutants, and that the EPA must treat them as such. But more than a year later, on July 11, 2008, Johnson responded to the ruling by refusing to regulate such emissions, violating the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act and endangering the future of our planet. Johnson’s refusal to respond to the greatest environmental crisis of our time is not only grossly immoral, it is illegal. This is a tremendous failure of leadership that in and of itself justifies his removal.
  2. Overruled scientists on smog standards: In March 2008, Johnson overruled EPA scientists’ unanimous recommendation that he tighten smog limits. Johnson set the new limits at a level higher than the scientists recommended, endangering Americans’ health.
  3. Prevented states from limiting pollution from cars and trucks: In December 2007, Johnson refused to grant a waiver that would have allowed California and 16 other states to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in their states—even though his own staff told him there was no legal justification to avoid granting the waiver.
  4. Allowed dangerous mercury emissions from power plants: In March 2005, Johnson announced new limits on dangerous mercury emissions from power plants, but the limits were so weak that they would have actually allowed some plants to increase mercury emissions. Johnson’s plan ignored the findings of a study his own agency commissioned, which concluded stronger regulations were justified. The Government Accountability Office said Johnson's decision was based on a deeply flawed economic analysis that did not stand up to scrutiny.
  5. Caved to Dick Cheney, allowing interference in congressional testimony: Johnson allowed Vice President Cheney to interfere with an EPA official’s congressional testimony about the health impacts of global warming in October 2007. Cheney’s office demanded that sections of testimony about health effects of global warming be removed. Cheney wanted the severity of the climate crisis downplayed in order to keep the EPA from acting.
  6. Weakened safety standards for pesticides: Johnson rejected experts’ advice and approved the use of highly toxic dichlorvos for pest strips, aerosol sprays and pet collars in May 2006. This dangerous chemical causes flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and dizziness and can be fatal in large doses. After Johnson’s decision EPA employees said they felt "besieged by political pressure exerted by Agency officials perceived to be too closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community."
  7. Maintained unhealthy fluoride limits: The Centers for Disease Control say the optimal level of fluoride in water is between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million, but the EPA has set a much higher limit of 4 p.p.m. In August 2005, EPA employees called on Johnson to address this health threat by placing a moratorium on fluoridation, but Johnson refused.
  8. Refused to submit to congressional oversight: Johnson has ignored congressional subpoenas issued in April and May of 2008, failing to produce required documents and initially failing even to assert any privilege to justify withholding them. This illegal refusal to submit to subpoenas undermines important congressional oversight authority.
  9. Retaliated against whistleblowers: After she blew the whistle about a U.S. multinational corporation's role in poisoning a South African community, Johnson’s EPA retaliated against employee Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, taking away her job responsibilities and creating a hostile work environment.
  10. Junket to Australia: One way Johnson has avoided having to testify before Congress is by leaving the country on taxpayer-funded junkets. In April 2008, when Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer tried to get Johnson to testify about a number of problems at the EPA, Johnson instead spent taxpayer funds to fly himself and 11 assistants to Australia, where they could "consult" with the new government. Johnson said his travel took place at the request of the U.S. ambassador to Australia, but in fact the ambassador had only asked one EPA staffer, the assistant administrator for water, to visit.
  11. EPA staff lose confidence: Unions representing more than 10,000 EPA employees called Johnson "duplicitous" and said he had violated the agency’s “principles of scientific integrity” (February 29, 2008)

As a recent Nature editorial put it, Johnson has repeatedly sided with polluters and against the environment "with reckless disregard for law, science or the agency's own rules—or, it seems, the anguished protests of his own subordinates."

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