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Waxman Grills EPA Administrator After Investigation Suggests White House Interference

In a Congressional hearing yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) grilled EPA chief Stephen Johnson about the White House's decision to overrule EPA scientists and ban California from regulating greenhouse gases. But in the latest example of a pattern of defiance, Johnson refused to divulge details of his conversations with the White House. Nor did he hand over documents subpoenaed by Waxman. (Johnson's reluctance to provide substantive information in response to Congressional requests has surfaced repeatedly during his tenure, as TPM Muckraker reported here and here.)

Waxman has been investigating the EPA's decision for months, accumulating (by his office's count) 27,000 pages of documents, which they've now posted on the Web. We haven't exactly gotten around to reading all of them, but some documents have already caught our eyes. For example, in a September 21, 2007 meeting, an EPA staffer described Johnson polling the staff on whether they supported or did not support the waiver: 

"According to five EPA staff who were in the meeting, not a single staffer argued that the California waiver should be denied," states Waxman's 20-page memorandum summarizing the investigation's key findings.

In a deposition taken on May 15, 2008, then-EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett said that Johnson "was very interested in a full grant of the waiver," but he changed his mind after communicating with the White House. According to Burnett's deposition, Johnson was not allowed to discuss the White House's involvement in the EPA's decision. (As the AP noted yesterday, Johnson disputes that.)

Whatever its provenance, the EPA's decision will have country-wide repercussions because more than a dozen states want to regulate greenhouse gas from cars and trucks.

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