Hardly a week goes by where EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson isn't interrogated by lawmakers, sued by states and environmental groups, or undermined by his own angry staff. So you can understand the urge to get the hell out of Dodge.
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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), one of Johnson's main persecutors as the chair of the Senate environmental committee, has got wind that Johnson is leaving for a prolonged trip to Australia. She is, typically, dubious. "I understand that you and a substantial number of EPA staff members are planning a trip to Australia, and that this trip has made you unavailable to testify before this Committee on certain important matters through much of April," she writes in a letter to Johnson today.
And she wants to know a little more about it such as: what it's for. "If your goal is to learn about actions to address global warming, I suggest that you visit California, which has moved ahead aggressively with greenhouse gas controls," she writes, in a bit of irrepressible snark. Johnson, against the unanimous recommendation of his staff, has blocked California's attempt to institute tougher greenhouse gas limits on cars and trucks. Boxer also inquires about the cost of the trip, noting that Bush has proposed to cut $500 million from the EPA's budget next year.
My call to the EPA wasn't returned. But an environmental committee spokesperson said that Boxer's staff have heard that the trip will last for two weeks.
The full letter is below.