The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been failing spectacularly to do what the law requires, as determined by numerous federal judges (including the Supreme Court). For a more in-depth look, consider a pair of articles by Margaret Kriz in the National Journal. “Vanishing Act” looks at many of the failures of the EPA. “The President’s Man” presents an interview with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and gives insight into his twisted thinking. For example, when asked about issuing ozone standards weaker than the unanimous recommendation of the EPA’s independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Johnson replies:

The law requires that I make a decision and set a [primary] standard that is requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. CASAC chose a [pollution cap] within the range of 60 to 70 [parts per billion of ozone]. After CASAC met, we did additional evaluation. I concluded that there was additional uncertainty [about the scientific data]. So I went to a 75 ppb level to make sure there was an adequate margin of safety.

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Johnson correctly states what is required, and then admits he did the opposite. Additional uncertainty about the scientific data would require a lower level than recommended, not a higher level, “to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety.” The only “adequate margin of safety” addressed by the EPA’s action was for corporate profits.

No wonder then, that Judge Judith Rogers, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently commented [PDF], “This explanation deploys the logic of the Queen of Hearts, substituting EPA’s desires for the plain text of section 112(c)(9)” when the EPA violated federal law by allowing some power plants to exceed caps on mercury emissions.

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This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.