EPA head scrutinized in Washington

May 21, 2008 11:27:53 AM PDT
Governor Schwarzenegger says he will keep fighting for stricter emissions standards, even if the White House might be standing in the way.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency came under sharp attack in Washington on Tuesday.

EPA chief Stephen Johnson appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, answering questions about possible White House interference in recent rulings on auto emissions and ozone levels.

"Are you concerned that hundreds of EPA scientists are complaining about interference in their work?" asked Rep. John Tierney (D) Massachusetts.

California Democrat Henry Waxman says depositions from EPA staff members suggest Johnson was overruled or heavily influenced by the White House.

"Your positions were right on the science and the law, yet in each case you backed down. You received your instructions from the White House. Now that's not how our government is supposed to work," said Waxman.

"The president provided input. Ultimately I made the decision," said EPA head Stephen Johnson.

The EPA denied California a waiver that would have forced automakers to reduce car emissions by 30 percent by the year 2016. Johnson at first supported it, then changed his mind after hearing from the White House.

"It was very disappointing to find out that the administration was involved and Secretary Johnson did not listen to his staff," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Governor Schwarzenegger says California will continue pursuing a waiver.

"So it's disappointing but it's not going to stop us, we're going to be like a bunch of terminators, we're going to march forward it's as simple as that," said Schwarzenegger.

Republicans defend Johnson, saying White House involvement in EPA activities is nothing new and is allowed under the law.


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