When Steve Johnson was tapped to head the EPA, many of my friends in the agency said they were proud that one of their own – a real environmental scientist – was pulled from their ranks to be the boss. But the glow of Johnson’s appointment quickly waned in the messy political realities of being the country’s environmental protector. Many of the same scientists and investigators told me that they were worried that Johnson was anointed to the position because he would be even more susceptible to the ever-present pressure from the White House and industry lobbyists.
Even more susceptiible then George Bush’s two previous administrators, Christine Todd Whitman and Mike Leavitt?
Hell yes, says a cover story in the National Journal. Reporter Margaret Kriz wrote that “Johnson’s EPA is regularly pushed around by politically powerful advisers at the White House and in other departments. And that congressional Democrats aren’t making the administrator’s life any easier.
“There’s a sense that the agency has not stood up for itself and has been run over by other interests in the executive branch — and that it’s happened under Steve Johnson’s stewardship,” Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Georgetown, told Kriz.
The NJ reported that EPA is failing to live up to its name these days. At a time when the nation’s top environmental regulators face increasingly complex pollution problems, President Bush is pushing for dramatic cuts in EPA’s budget, his administration’s strained, pro-industry interpretations of environmental laws have repeatedly been laughed out of court, and the White House is widely perceived to be running roughshod over agency scientists and lawyers.