Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Senate Environment and Public Works chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) is petitioning Attorney General Michael Mukasey to stop “renegade” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson’s recent decision on coal-fired power plants. Johnson decreed last week that power plants’ greenhouse-gas emissions shouldn’t be taken into consideration when determining whether to approve their construction, countering the EPA Appeals Board ruling in the Bonanza case.

“This illegal document issued by Stephen Johnson makes it clear that he has become a renegade Administrator,” wrote Boxer. “He defies the clear language of our environmental laws and acts without legal authority. Mr. Johnson’s latest action is intended to make the job of combating global warming more difficult and will add to the millions of taxpayer dollars he has wasted in defending his illegal decisions. The Attorney General has an obligation to intervene when the actions of the Administration are so clearly outside the law.”

Here’s the full letter, sent today:

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December 22, 2008

The Honorable Michael Mukasey

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Mukasey:

I am writing to request that as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, you intervene immediately with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson to ensure that he withdraws his blatantly illegal memo, entitled “EPA’s Interpretation of Regulations that Determine Pollutants Covered By Federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Permit Program,” issued on December 18, 2008.

Administrator Johnson issued the document without legal authority under the Clean Air Act, and in spite of the clear opinion of the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in In re: Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, PSD Appeal No. 07-03 (EAB November 13, 2008). Johnson’s guidance also flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007).

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The Johnson document presents as arguments against including carbon dioxide emissions in a Clean Air Act permit the same kind of transparent excuses for inaction on global warming pollution that both the Supreme Court and the Environmental Appeals Board flatly rejected in their respective opinions. In addition, the EPA’s issuance of the Johnson document completely disregards the public’s right to participate in EPA decision making.

If EPA or its Regional Offices proceed under this illegal document, the U.S government will certainly face a lawsuit in the immediate future. The EPA under Mr. Johnson has had an almost perfect record of defeat when it comes to its major environmental policies. Again and again, the Bush EPA has been reversed by the federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. Court battles over Mr. Johnson’s latest indefensible policy will only throw away more taxpayer dollars, in addition to the millions already wasted.

In addition, any action going forward under the Johnson document would do nothing but create further unconscionable delay in efforts to protect America- and the world – from the ravages of unchecked global warming. The steps we must take to address global warming are a recipe for economic recovery, but Mr. Johnson’s illegal memo will only postpone the steps that will combat global warming, create millions of jobs, and ensure America’s energy security.

Swift and decisive action on your part to ensure that Administrator Johnson immediately withdraws this unauthorized document will not only prevent a gross waste of taxpayer money defending an illegal decision, but it will also make clear that the waning days of the Bush Administration should not be used to issue “midnight rules” that undermine the law and threaten the health of our people and our planet.

Given the urgency of this matter, please contact me immediately regarding your next steps to ensure that this illegal policy is suspended and that more taxpayer dollars are not wasted.


Barbara Boxer