Oversight Hearing on EPA Ozone Standards

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The Oversight Committee is currently holding a hearing, “EPA's New Ozone Standards,” to examine the new ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) and the process the Environmental Protection Agency used in setting them. A Committee investigation has uncovered details of White House involvement in EPA's regulation of ozone on the eve of a court imposed deadline, forcing EPA staff to scrap a standard supported by its independent panel and to perform “emergency rewrites” to the regulation. Documents obtained by the Committee show that EPA staff raised serious concerns about the merits and legality of the decision. In light of new information obtained by the Committee, questions are also expected regarding the White House's role in EPA's action to block California's program to regulate greenhouse gases from automobiles. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson will testify along with several other witnesses.

Watch the hearing live via committee webcast or on C Span 3.

Chairman Waxman gives opening remarks:

Chairman Waxman: “The Committee's investigation reveals that EPA officials were astounded by the President's decision and said it wasn't supported by either the science or the law. One official wrote: ‘I have been working on National Ambient Air Quality Standards for over 30 years and have yet to see anything like this.’ Another wrote: ‘we could be in a position of having to fend off contempt proceedings… The obligation to promulgate a rule arguably means to promulgate one that is nominally defensible.’”

Chairman Henry Waxman questions EPA Administrator Johnson and other witnesses:

Chairman Waxman: “‘Well, this was not a minor change, it was a major reversal that I believe was not supported by the record. Your own staff said it was 'pure politics,’ and that they had never seen anything like it in 30 years of working on air quality standards. An agency lawyer worried that the final decision was not even ‘nominally defensible.’ And this wasn’t the only time you’ve been reversed by the White House, it seems to be happening over and over again. Your deputy associate administrator, Jason Burnett, told the committee that last fall you supported granting California’s petition to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. According to Mr. Burnett, you changed your position after you talked to the White House. Is that accurate?”

Rep. Paul Hodes (NH-02) questions EPA Administrator Johnson and other witnesses:

Rep. Hodes: “The law is very clear that EPA may not consider costs in setting a national air quality standard to protect the environment. The Supreme Court specifically addressed the issue in 2001, the court wrote that if EPA established a standard by ‘secretly considering the costs without telling anyone’ it would be grounds for throwing out the standard, because the administrator did not follow the law. I’m concerned that this is exactly what happened in this case. The record before this committee shows that the unanimous recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee was rejected by you, Mr. Johnson, apparently on the basis of White House opinion or desire.”
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