Senate Democrats call for EPA chief to resign

WASHINGTON (AP) - Four Democratic senators called Tuesday for Stephen Johnson to resign as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to begin an investigation into whether he lied in testimony to a Senate committee.

The senators, all members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Johnson - the first career scientist to head the agency - had repeatedly succumbed to political pressure on decisions vital to protecting health and the environment.

In a letter the senators sent to Mukasey on Tuesday, they also allege that Johnson made false statements before the committee in January when he said that he alone had decided California should not regulate the gases blamed for global warming from motor vehicles.

A former top EPA official told the committee earlier this month that the administrator initially decided to grant a partial waiver to the state, but later changed his mind under pressure from the White House.

"We have lost all confidence in Stephen Johnson's ability to carry out EPA's mission under the law," Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told reporters.

Boxer was joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., in calling for Johnson's resignation. They said Johnson should step down because he has ignored the advice of the agency's own scientists on the regulation of numerous air pollutants and stonewalled congressional oversight.

"Administrator Stephen Johnson is a failure," said Whitehouse. It would be "a disgrace to allow this administrator to slink off stage with the rest of the administration."

The four Democrats also signed the letter to Mukasey.

Jonathan Shradar, Johnson's press secretary, said Tuesday that the administrator would "continue to lead this agency undistracted by the Boxer and White House show."

Responding to the allegations that Johnson made misleading statements, Shradar said: "He had a lot of input from a lot of different people. No he was not lying. Did the White House give input, I would imagine it did. But the decision was his and he made it alone."

Earlier this year, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, both environmental advocacy groups, pressed Johnson to step down.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the environment committee's top Republican, issued a brief rebuttal Tuesday, saying, "This is simply more election year politicking. Nothing more need be said."

By:  Dina Cappiello
Source: Associated Press