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Is Bush interfering with EPA decisions?

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / May 21, 2008

Georgia Power's Plant Bowen in Euharlee, Ga., located about 40 miles northwest of Atlanta, is shown in this June 20, 2002, aerial file photo.

AP Photo/The Daily Tribune News, Dayton P. Strickland/FILE

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The House Committee on Oversight has been looking into whether the White House has improperly meddled with the EPA's climate and clean-air policies.

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On Tuesday, the committee, chaired by Henry Waxman (D) of California, looked into documents purporting to show that the EPA watered down ozone standards at the behest of the White House. On Monday, a top-level EPA official testified that the agency's administrator, Stephen Johnson, initially favored granting California a waiver that would have allowed it to regulate tailpipe emissions, but then backed down after hearing from the White House.

Combine that with a report earlier this month from the Union of Concerned Scientists that 889 of 1,586 staff scientists at the EPA reported that they have experienced political interference in their work in the past five years, and there emerges a pretty strong case that the White House is continually overriding the advice of EPA scientists.

You won't hear that from Mr. Johnson, though. Check out this clip on YouTube from Tuesday's ozone hearing, in which New Hampshire Democrat Paul Hodes attempts to ask the EPA administrator if he ever spoke with anyone from the White House about the cost of the pollution standards. For five whole minutes, Johnson, who was under oath, dodges the question of whether he recalls such a conversation, adding that it would not be appropriate to discuss the content of that conversation if it had in fact happened. Got that?

It gets weirder. At one point Mr. Waxman unsuccessfully attempts to squeeze a straight answer out of Johnson about his conversations with the White House. He is interrupted by Darrell Issa (R) of California, who says it is his party's turn to ask questions. Waxman pounds his gavel and raises his voice: "I will have you physically removed from this meeting if you don't stop," Waxman tells Mr. Issa. [link via TPM Muckraker]

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