Sunday, March 23, 2008

EPA Seeks Inquiry Transcripts

EPA Seeks Inquiry Transcripts

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Agency wants to know what staffers told congressman.

Washington - The Environmental Protection Agency, peppered with requests from lawmakers for documents, is returning fire with an unusual request for confidential papers.

EPA Associate Administrator Christopher Bliley recently asked for transcripts of closed-door interviews with seven senior EPA staffers concerning the agency's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A key House investigations committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, (D- Beverly Hills), had conducted the interviews.

The EPA "has an interest in ensuring that the information provided ... by agency employees in their official capacity is accurate and complete," wrote Bliley in a letter dated March 14, a day after Waxman had issued a subpoena for 196 internal EPA documents.

The EPA staffers told Waxman's Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the agency's staff had concluded in December that carbon dioxide posed a threat to the public's health and welfare, but that after the finding was forwarded to the White House work on the issue was put on hold.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has called the staff assessment preliminary and one that needed to be re-evaluated after Congress passed legislation increasing the fuel economy requirements for automobiles. Carbon dioxide released from automobile tailpipes is a major source of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Waxman, in a March 12 letter, alluded extensively to the EPA interviews and demanded that the agency provide a variety of documents including the December staff assessment on carbon dioxide and draft regulation.

Over the last two months, Waxman has made repeated demands for documents related to the EPA's global warming-related deliberation, including its refusal to allow California to pursue separate regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

The committee had no immediate comment on the EPA's request, which was first reported Wednesday by Greenwire.

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