EPA head swarmed by protesters in SF

August 22, 2008 7:11:31 PM PDT
The embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen Johnson came to the Bay Area to visit the local office. Protesters tried to meet with him, calling him "public enemy number one."

The crowd formed in protest of a man they would never see.

"He is public enemy number one on raping Mother Earth," said EPA protestor Quanah Brightman.

Sentiments aside, Stephen Johnson's formal title is administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. When news leaked that he would visit the EPA in San Francisco on Friday, protestors representing more than two dozen causes figured they might have an audience.

"He represents the chemical companies, the corporate interests who are privatizing the EPA, which represents not the people, but corporations," said APA protestor Steve Seltzer.

But on Friday, Mr. Johnson remained 14 floors up with his staff, which might as well have been another galaxy after building management posted guards at the doors, and then locked them to everyone, including members of the press.

Any comment why the building is closed?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

It's the poor versus the middle class. The way it has always been," said one protester.

According to his agenda, Mr. Johnson conducted a session for staffers called 'Ask the Administrator'. Asking questions is a role to which he has become accustomed, and has also made him controversial.

Mr. Johnson has been feeling the heat since early this year, when The EPA rejected California's request for more stringent tailpipe emission standards.

"I evaluated the data, made the decision. It was the right decision," said Johnson in January 2008.

But later, EPA memos revealed that his staff recommended otherwise, and that even Mr. Johnson supported the tougher standards, but gave in to pressure from the White House. Four senators have now asked him to resign.

"The president provided the data. I made the decision and it was the right decision," said Johnson in January 2008.

One he would not explain further, much to the disappointment of protestors who banged on those locked doors.

Stephen Johnson come on down.

Mr. Johnson's spokesman said: "We fully support Americans right to protest and have opinions."

Outside the EPA they did, and they do.


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