Did George Bush Break the Clean Air Act?

The Clean Air Act does not allow the EPA Administrator to take cost into account when he sets new standards for things like ozone levels. Now, as Henry Waxman’s Oversight Committee makes clear, on several occasions, the EPA Administration changed his preferred policy to one much less beneficial for the environment after speaking to the White House.

In today’s hearing, Administrator Johnson repeatedly discussed costs, even while insisting that his final decision did not take cost into account. So Paul Hodes asked the obvious question: well, did the White House take cost into account, and then you take the White House’s counsel into account.

The law is very clear that EPA may not consider costs in setting a national air quality standard to protect the environment. The Supreme Court specifically addressed the issue in 2001, the court wrote that if EPA established a standard by ‘secretly considering the costs without telling anyone’ it would be grounds for throwing out the standard, because the administrator did not follow the law. I’m concerned that this is exactly what happened in this case. The record before this committee shows that the unanimous recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee was rejected by you, Mr. Johnson, apparently on the basis of White House opinion or desire.

That’s when Administrator Johnson got all evasive. He was asked (the first several times by Hodes), whether the White House considered cost in its own consideration of the issue. When Johnson refused to answer that question, Hodes asked him to answer the much simpler question: whether he recalled talking to the White House about the ozone standard.

Johnson wouldn’t answer that either.

Johnson neither asserted executive privilege, nor explained on what basis he could refuse to answer questions about whether he recalled whether or not he had had a conversation with the White House about it.

That’s when Henry Waxman got pissed.

That’s the execrable Darrell Issa that Waxman blew his stack at.

Of course, Johnson is desperately clinging to a memory that rivals Alberto Gonzales’ for one reason: While Administrator Johnson can say he didn’t consider cost when he set ozone levels (since he was apparently considering primarily what the White House told him), if the White House "secretly considered the costs without telling anyone," then the White House broke the law.

And in case you’re wondering, Johnson made it clear that it was not Cheney, this time, interfering into scientific decisions. It was the Petroleum President, not the Vice President, who appears to have illegally considered cost when setting ozone levels.

28 replies
  1. LS says:

    “I’ll have you physically removed”…take that Issa


    The arrogance of these people is just palpable…Johnson is just a premier jerk. I think you are right…he backpeddled to protect W.

    • emptywheel says:

      Henry made nice with Issa later in the hearing, giving him the same amount of time Henry took. But boy, how many times have I wanted to have someone say to Darrell Issa, “I’ll have you physically removed.”

      Actually, though, I think Waxman’s proper response would have been, “Okay, I’m going to call teh entire committee back in here and we’re going to vote on a contempt resolution, you fucker.”

      To Johnson. Not Issa. Issa we’re stuck with, until California helps us out.

      • LS says:

        Exactly. We’re used to Issa being a pr*ck punk, but that Johnson guy type just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

      • JimWhite says:

        That’s the problem, isn’t it? We get a burst of outrage, and then our side “makes nice” and no consequences occur. Until there are tangible, direct consequences for this kind of behavior, it will continue.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        We’re trying. I can’t wait to get home and see this. No YouTube allowed here at work.

  2. whitewidow says:

    That was awesome. Issa being put in his place. What a tool he is.

    Johnson claimed a “privilege” for not answering whether he had “a conversation” with Bush, but when Wexler asked him if he was claiming “executive privilege” he quickly backed off that once, too.

    Wexler has a diary up at dkos saying again that inherent contempt “should” be used on Rove.

  3. FormerFed says:

    Good grief, how many more months do we have to put up with this nonsense? The entire Bush administration’s arrogance is simply beyond the pale. The Congress needs to march one (doesn’t really matter which one) to jail for contempt.

  4. AZ Matt says:

    What a Twit! I think it is time to dust off the House jail cell. Feed the guy on $1.75 a day till he cooperates. He doesn’t look like he misses many meals.

  5. Rayne says:

    OMFG. Why do our members of Congress put up with this crap?

    This dirt bag Johnson just got away with telling more than one member of Congress, “Stuff it, I don’t have to answer your steenkin’ questions. Just because.”

    Why did they not get the Sargeant-at-Arms to take this fucker to the basement until he cooperated? He just set more precedent, that it’s perfectly okay to lie and prevaricate and thumb one’s nose at Congress as if it were a gathering of old men over chess boards in the park instead of the collective representatives of the people.

    I feel absolutely nauseous after both of those videos.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      He just set more precedent, that it’s perfectly okay to lie and prevaricate and thumb one’s nose at Congress

      I know some people he should discuss ‘costs’ with — pediatricians, pediatric nurses, researchers, parents, and American kids with asthma.

      Outtamyarse costs for ONE kid with asthma, for one year (out of pocket costs) — $400 to cover co-pays for: physician visits, steroid meds (anti-inflammatory), blood tests (to test liver and kidney function b/c of steroid meds), and inhalers.
      The insurance company costs ran $1800/year.

      The ‘costs’ of poor air quality start to add up pretty quickly if you look at the entire US population. It’s worth keeping in mind that this simple exercise doesn’t even begin to count in costs for lung cancer, emphysema, or other heart/lung complications.

      Maybe Waxman needs to hold his next hearing in a hospital ward at a local children’s hospital. Perhaps if Johnson saw a few kiddos gasping for breath and sucking on their inhalers, he might get a clue about the consequences of his willingness to screw over public resources for the sake of a few shareholder dollars.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Sorry, too tired last night to explain how it is that ozone could end up affecting air quality and asthma. It’s not as obvious a connection as really ‘doh’ air pollution like smoke stacks, but the linkages exist even if they’re a bit more complex to tease out.

          Boy, do we need leadership in a hurry.

  6. TeddySanFran says:

    “I will have you physically removed from this room if you do not stop!”


  7. Hugh says:

    TPMmuckraker has been chronicling the exploits of Johnson for a while. The best we can hope for is that somewhere down the road a year or two from now he will cop a plea for lying to Congress or obstructing a Congressional investigation.

  8. Hugh says:

    A common pattern I see in most of the Administration’s current actions is an effort to tie the hands of the next Administration and force a continuation of this Administration’s disastrous policies. Starting trials of Guantanamo detainees was a way to lock in the military commissions process. We warned the Bush Administration from the beginning that torture and the extra Constitutional status of detainees would poison the proceedings and this is what we are seeing play out.

    This is something they brought on themselves. They were so obsessed with the phantasm of gaining “actionable intelligence” through torture that they didn’t bother to notice or know that torture doesn’t work or that they would have to trash our country’s reputation and Constitution to do something that ultimately was criminal, abhorrent, and futile.

  9. JohnLopresti says:

    Here is a topic the is the outcome of torture, capital in this instance, little documented in places I have seen on the web, and maybe a lot to organize in the time until the post at the new site, though the book salon had some interesting directions a few days ago, with respect to published books rather than things available on the internet. I economize on time, or would read the aclu more. A blog will help them organize their information.

  10. PJEvans says:

    I’d say that the question isn’t ‘Did George Break’ but “Why Did George and Dick Break’. But I live in LA, and this is important to me.

    Who’s running against Issa?

Comments are closed.