Two stories on Bush’s new EPA guy Steve Johnson — in the L.A. Times and the Christian Science Monitor — confirm what was basically my gut reaction when I heard about him. It seems the Bushies have figured out that there’s no margin in having a high-profile figure in charge of EPA. It’s the president who sets the course for policy; all the EPA administrator needs to do is keep the trains running on time, stay on board, and otherwise stay out of the way. Whitman was a politician, ultimately concerned with positioning herself for bigger things in the future (though that didn’t really work out). Leavitt was a true believer (which means he really did have a future in the party). He offered a big target. Johnson is by all accounts a mild-mannered, non-ideological bureaucrat, nobody you could really get worked up about. Bush administration environmental policy won’t change — it will just be a little quieter.

Tomorrow’s Muckraker will more or less back this up.

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BTW, there’s an easy way to test if this theory is right. Johnson, as a toxic substances scientist, knows full well how bad mercury is. If he gets fully behind Bush’s Clear Skies legislation, with its unforgivably weak mercury regulations, we’ll know he’s just a more bland face on the same ugly beastie.

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