EPA Chief Defends Shielding of Global Warming Papers

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson said this morning that he was attempting to protect his agency's ability to defend itself in court when he initially redacted documents turned over to a congressional committee concerning his dispute with California over global warming regulations.

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson said this morning that he was attempting to protect his agency's ability to defend itself in court when he initially redacted documents turned over to a congressional committee concerning his dispute with California over global warming regulations.

Johnson told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the documents involved information protected by attorney-client privilege, which normally is not disclosed "so we can defend ourselves in the court system." However, Johnson pointed out that he waived his privilege yesterday and allowed the staff of committee Chair Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, to review and transcribe the documents in a 5 1 /2-hour session under the supervision of EPA staff.

But at the hearing, Boxer, holding up a tangle of white tape that her staff had to remove from the documents to read them, said, "What a waste of our time. This is not national security. This isn't classified information. This is information we deserve to have." Boxer refused to honor Johnson's request to keep the information confidential and yesterday released excerpts confirming previous reports that EPA staff had told Johnson that California was legally justified in seeking a federal waiver allowing it to require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, a standard that 18 other states also had plans to enact. The states have sued EPA to overturn the decision.

"You're walking the American taxpayers into a lawsuit you are going to lose," Boxer said. But Johnson said he believed his decision was correct because climate change is a global problem. "This challenge is not exclusive or unique to California. California does not have a need for its own state standard."

—Marianne Lavelle