Select Committee and White House reach deal on release of documents
It seems the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has reached some sort of agreement with the White House to obtain documents from the Environmental Protection Agency on their internal workings. The decision preempted the committee’s plan to hold a vote today finding EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in contempt.
The Select Committee is after documents that detail the agency’s process for denying California’s request for a waiver in setting emissions standards for vehicles, and the endangerment findings the agency prepared in response the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Massachusetts v. EPA more than a year ago.
Select Committee chairman Ed Markey has been requesting copies of these documents from EPA administrator Stephen Johnson since January. The EPA first ignored their requests, but in March responded with a letter claiming that the disclosure of “pre-decisional information … could result in needless public confusion about the status of the EPA’s efforts on this issue.” Then they said that the documents were only in draft form.
Then the Select Committee issued a subpoena to Johnson for the documents, and the EPA said that they’d release them when they released their “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule-making” in June. Then … they went back and forth some more. The Select Committee has put together this helpful timeline [PDF] of their exchanges with the EPA.
Today the committee was slated to hold a vote declaring Johnson in contempt, but it appears they’ve made a deal with the White House to get the requested documents. The committee’s note to the press was fairly ambiguous: “The agreement would allow Congress the right to conduct oversight on important executive decisions,” said Markey in a written statement. “Our goal all along was to acquire access to these global warming documents, and the committee has succeeded in that effort in a bi-partisan way.”
When they’ll get the documents, and when the rest of us will be able to see them, remains unclear. Grist will have more information when it’s made available. This is just the latest development in the ongoing drama that is the Johnson EPA. Earlier this week, new information came to light showing that the White House pushed Johnson to deny the waiver. Yesterday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved legislation calling on George Bush to overturn the agency’s waiver decision. And on Tuesday House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman wigged out on Johnson for not responding to questions about the agency’s recent decision on ozone standards, which was also apparently influenced by the White House.