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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey to EPA: Withholding Documents Interfering with Congress' Work


Contact: Select Committee, 202-225-4081

Markey to EPA: Withholding Documents Interfering with Congress’ Work

Chairman Probing Lack of Global Warming “Endangerment” Finding, Vehicle Emissions Regulations

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2008) – At a hearing before the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson refused to turn over documents pertaining to global warming decisions within his agency, even though Congress has a right to the documents. Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) made it clear that this refusal would force his committee to explore the full range of options available to compel the EPA to hand over the documents.

“The EPA is interfering with the work of my committee to understand why this administration is refusing to decide whether the planet is endangered," said Chairman Markey. "If the EPA does not make the documents available by the time the House returns, then this committee will use the full extent of its authority to make sure the public understands who in the Bush administration is blocking the professional scientists from concluding what the world already knows: that the planet is in danger because of global warming.”

In conversations and in letters dating back to January, Chairman Markey and Johnson had discussed his agency turning over documents pertaining to EPA’s required ruling on whether or not heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution is a danger to human health or welfare; and draft regulations for controlling global warming emissions from vehicles. Johnson had personally committed to turning over the documents, but has since refused to do so.

Chairman Markey first requested the information in a letter sent on January 15, 2008. A letter was received by Chairman Markey on March 8, 2008, indicating that while Johnson would testify, he would not be providing the committee with the documents. Chairman Markey responded on that day, reiterating the committee’s right to the documents, and that it was “deeply disturbing that after having received your personal commitment that these documents would be provided in advance of the hearing, your staff is now telling the committee that in fact you do not plan to submit them voluntarily.” In a March 11, 2008 response, Johnson apologized for the “misunderstanding.”

The letters can be found here:
In the hearing, Johnson did not claim executive privilege, but instead relied on an inapplicable argument that only applies to outside parties seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act. Congress has a right to documents without any FOIA request, and has a right to these documents.

"Administrator Johnson specifically did not claim executive privilege as a basis for refusing to turn over the documents, because he knows that it doesn't apply. Consequently, his stonewalling this committee cannot be accepted," Chairman Markey said.

The Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v EPA directed EPA to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. If EPA makes this so-called “endangerment finding,” the Supreme Court said, then it must regulate these emissions from motor vehicles. In its response to the Supreme Court decision, EPA spent about six months conducting intensive analysis and, according to EPA staff disclosures to Congress, Johnson signed off on the Agency’s positive endangerment finding. The endangerment finding, as well as a completed proposal to regulate emissions from motor vehicles (to levels that correspond to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2018), were forwarded to other White House and federal agencies for review in December.  

According to numerous statements made by Johnson and other Bush administration officials, the proposals were to be released publicly by the end of 2007 and finalized by the end of 2008. That has not occurred. Instead, reports have indicated that EPA has ceased all work in this area and, at today’s hearing, Johnson would not even commit to a firm date on which these documents would be released.

“The Bush administration’s approach to global warming policy has been to deny the science, delay the regulation, and dismiss its critics, and Administrator Johnson’s refusal to move forward with this critical first step to limit greenhouse gas emissions is right out of that playbook. This EPA may be the last environmental ministry in the developed world to concede what the world’s scientists and governments already know: global warming emissions are dangerous, and must be controlled,” said Chairman Markey.

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PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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