May 19, 2008

Whitehouse: Johnson Should Make Full Disclosure on Political Involvement in California Waiver Decision

House Committee Finds EPA Administrator Changed Position on Critical Regulatory Decision After Talks with White House

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today urged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to make a full disclosure of the facts surrounding his decision to reject a request by California, Rhode Island, and several other states to set tough restrictions on vehicle tailpipe emissions, so the American people can determine whether and to what extent White House officials influenced that decision. Johnson is set to testify tomorrow afternoon before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Earlier today, the House Oversight Committee released a memo summarizing its investigation into EPA’s rejection of the so-called California waiver request. After hearing from EPA officials and reviewing thousands of pages of documents, the Committee concluded that while Administrator Johnson had initially supported granting the request at least in part, he reversed himself after communications with officials at the White House.

“The memo released today by the House Oversight Committee raises extremely serious concerns about political influence over scientific and regulatory decisions at EPA,” Whitehouse said. “The evidence obtained by the Committee showing that Administrator Johnson changed his mind on granting California’s waiver request after communications with the White House seems to be just more of the same from an Administration that has consistently put politics before our environment and public health.
“When I asked Administrator Johnson about this matter several months ago, the stilted, repetitive legalese of his answers made him seem like a man who had been coached on his answers and had something to hide. I hope he will be much more forthcoming tomorrow, and give the American people the straight answers they deserve.”

Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney and Attorney General, has helped lead the EPW Committee’s investigation into the politicization of decision-making at EPA. He chaired a hearing earlier this month to hear testimony from George Gray, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development, and a panel of scientists. Gray refused to respond to concerns raised by scientists and policymakers that political considerations have dictated decision-making at the agency.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921