The Bush administration seems to be all about losing professional agency staffs through politically motivated punishment firings, i.e. the U.S. Attorney’s Scandal and &feature=related" target="_blank">the firing of Fox News whistle blowers (and yes, Virginia, Fox News is part of the administration) and government employee resignations over matters of principal, i.e. Intelligence Agents, State Department employees and Health and Human Services professionals. Count among those numerous resignations at the EPA, including the very public resignation of Chris Schaeffer, the former Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement, over the attempt to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” in not punishing violators of the Clean Air Act.
And now, as reported by the Associated Press, EPA workers unions representing more than 10,000 EPA employees are withdrawing from a cooperation agreement with their supervisors, the Bush political appointees, over controversies including the agencies refusal to allow California a waiver to set greenhouse gas emission reduction levels beyond the federal standard. The cooperative agreement was put in place in the 1990’s as a way for political appointees and career EPA workers to have a forum to deal with workplace and other issues before final decisions are reached.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, nineteen union local presidents cited “abuses of our good nature and trust” and the promotion of political expediency and “private sector interests” over principles of scientific integrity as reasons for the withdrawal from the agreement. The letter was publicly released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility earlier this week.
Senator Barbara Boxer has made available some documentation demonstrating the many ways in which political appointees and the Administrator ignored the recommendations of senior staff on the California waiver decision. The Environment and Public Works Committee that she chairs is investigating the EPA’s denial of California’s waiver request. Boxer made a statement on the briefing documents received by her committee (the EPA continues to refuse to release the full documentation), stating:
These documents paint a picture of an Environmental Protection Agency in crisis. They show the dedicated professional staff of the EPA working hard to do what they are paid to do by the American people - protect our health and our environment. At the same time, we see more and more evidence of Administrator Johnson ignoring the science and the facts, and discarding the advice of his professional staff. -- U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public WorksTalking points prepared by the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality that the committee has made available demonstrate just how far apart the professional EPA staff was from the Administrator on the California waiver:
- 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. The law is very specific about what you are allowed to consider, and even if you adopt the alternative interpretations that have been suggested by the automakers, you still wind up in the same place.
- You 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.