Staff to EPA Administrator: California Decision Could Mean Your Job

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: no one will ever accuse Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson of a lack of chutzpah.

Johnson, remember, blocked California’s effort — and 15 other states by extension — to combat greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. He made the decision despite an apparent unanimity of opinion on his staff that he had no real justification for doing so. The decision was certainly to the White House’s and automotive industry’s satisfaction.

The Senate environmental committee, along with the House oversight committee, has been investigating the decision. Johnson made a blandly combative appearance (heavy on the “gobbledygook“) before the Senate panel last month. And today, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released more evidence that Johnson overruled his staff.

A set of talking points prepared for a senior official in the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality for a meeting with Johnson was most explicit:

From what I have read and the people I have talked to, it is obvious to me that there is no legal or technical justification for denying this….

You [Johnson] have to find a way to get this done. If you cannot, you will face a pretty big personal decision about whether you are able to stay in the job under those circumstances. This is a choice only you can make, but I ask you to think about the history and the future of the agency in making it. If you are asked to deny this waiver, I fear the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged.

Update: The New York Times reports that the talking points were “drafted by Christopher Grundler, deputy director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the agency, for his boss, Margo T. Oge.” They were used by William K. Reilly, the administrator from 1989 to 1993, in a conversation with Johnson.