EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson was summoned to appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to explain exactly why -- for the record and while under oath no less -- he chose to overrule the unanimous opinion of EPA's professional staff in denying that waiver California and some 17 states need to move forward with their landmark global warming emissions standards for cars.
Johnson of course had refused to attend an earlier hearing in California and last Friday EPA exerted bizarre claims of executive privilege in refusing to turn over documents the Senate. It seems someone at EPA failed Symbolism 101 at Hacks State U, as they justified their refusal to turn over the documents by citing a case about the most notorious cover-up of all time (pdf): United States v. Nixon. Apparently EPA believes that the public shouldn’t be able to see "pre-decisional documents" arguing for approval of the waiver because then they might be confused about why it was later denied. Gee, do you think so Captain Obvious!? Oh, and apparently EPA is also holding back because it's worried losing the lawsuit brought by the states and enviros if they get hold of the documents (i.e. the truth). And, yes, that is in fact the very same lawsuit the agency's own lawyers warned Johnson would be "almost certain" and that EPA would "likely lose" if it denied the waiver.
Boxer started the hearing with a bit of theatrics, showing the pile of white redacting tape her committee staff had had to remove from the documents EPA supplied -- documents they were only allowed to hand copy while EPA staffers literally stood over their shoulders. Johnson put on a good show of his own. Despite being reminded repeatedly by several senators that he was under oath, he stood by his claim that even though he cited the energy bill as the reason for denying the waiver in the press teleconference announcing the waiver decision, that the timing was somehow really just one big coincidence. The questioning got so heated I'm pretty sure Johnson was sorry that he hadn't taken advantage of Hillary Clinton's absence from the hearing to borrow her famed asbestos pantsuit.
Not be outdone, James Connaughton, the administration's top environmental official (and, faithful to the Bush administration's high standards of integrity, a former top lobbyist for polluters), appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and claimed that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 -- called "the most anti-environmental piece of legislation signed into law in recent memory" by the League of Conservation Voters -- was really a "climate bill," but just by another name. Funny that, we call it a piece of crap, but by another name.
This follows on several other pieces of anti-environmental mutton dressed up as lamb by the Bush administration. That hit parade includes the Healthy Forests Initiative -- a logging bill by a different name -- and the Clear Skies Initiative -- a gutting of the Clean Air Act by another name.
George W. Bush: greenest president ever!*
*just by another name
RAW is the Sierra Club's weekly e-mail update in which our team of Sierra Club correspondents bring you humorous insights about environmental stories you won't want to believe.