Thursday, August 07, 2008

Meet an Asshat

The EPA (whose administrators seems to think the acronym stands for “the Environment is Perfectly A-okay) is back in the news, along with its asshat appointees. A few days ago, four senators called for the resignation of Stephen L. Johnson, sycophantic asshat and the current EPA muckety-muck. Johnson is no stranger to controversy; his confirmation in 2005 was something of a battle because of his views on human subjects and various kinds of chemical tests (especially the CHEERS program, which involved studying developmental problems in children 0 – 3 by paying families that lived in suspected pesticide-laced areas to allow researchers to see how fucked up their kids got because of the pesticides… you know, instead of relocating them or cleaning up the chemical mess). Johnson finally suspended the program as a bargaining chip to get confirmed.

Johnson used to work for a company called Hazelton Laboratories (prior to his stint at the EPA, he worked in the biotech industry), which had many high profile problems with their alleged poor treatment of animal subjects in their labs. On a fun note, he did his undergraduate degree at Taylor University (not too far from where I grew up), which is a batshit crazy Christian evangelical private college.

One of the larger controversies has come in the wake of his sabotaging of state efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA fought Massachusetts’s right to regulate emissions all the way to the Supreme Court; the EPA lost. Nature has a great article chronicling the whole debacle, including entreaties from his staff to sign the waiver to allow states like California to regulate. My favorite line from the article:
"It is also worth noting that his refusal documentation, made official on 29 February, extensively quotes an industry trade association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers."

It has gotten so bad at the EPA that most of the agency’s professional staff, aided by their unions, sent an open letter to Johnson detailing the egregious lapses in judgment he has shown in his unwavering deference to the Bush Administration. Among the most serious charge is his alleged repeated ignoring of the EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity.

This brings us back to the here and now; EPA staff have reportedly been told they are not allowed to cooperate with any Congressional investigation, talk to reporters, or even cooperate with the agency’s own internal office of investigation. Johnson has even refused to appear before a Senate committee. It appears they are trying to stonewall the investigations until at least after the election. Apparently enough is enough; the four democratic senators that have called for his resignation include one my senators, Barbara Boxer, who is something of Johnson’s arch-nemesis in the Senate. I’m not particularly hopeful he will actually resign—it looks like we’re stuck until January. This ridiculous situation with one of the country’s most important agencies really hits home the disaster that would be a McCain administration—more asshat industry shills in high places (Erik dealt with this eloquently in his post from a few days ago regarding Nixon, the EPA, and political control of environmental regulation).