We, the undersigned, call for the immediate resignation of Stephen Johnson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The American people stand on the threshold of a sea change in the US government with the recognition that "we the people" can regain control of our government, our environment and our lives. Through our determination and courage we can wrestle power away from a political regime that has placed our lives at risk by enacting environmental policies with little regard for human life, policies that have triggered historic cancer rates, deadly asthma attacks, upper respiratory disease and global warming.
Before a new administration takes its place in history, as people of conscience, we have a fleeting window of opportunity to send a clear message about the caliber we expect of the political appointees to the EPA. With the removal of Steve Johnson we will send a message to the next administration that we will not tolerate mediocrity and utter disdain for the environment and for courageous whistleblowers.
There are those who will argue that Steve Johnson can not inflict exponential harm to the public or the environment in the remaining six months of his term. However, as we watch American cities submerged under water, I would ask whether we, as a society, can afford his misdirected leadership in the areas of climate change and deregulation of important environmental protection laws. Decisions made today will undoubtedly impact the health and future of our children tomorrow. As a society, are we prepared to accept that risk on behalf of our families?
On June 13, 2008, Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced that the Committee will consider whether Administrator Johnson should be held in contempt of Congress for his repeated refusal to provide subpoenaed documents to the Committee. The subpoenaed documents involve the White House role in EPA's ozone standards and rejection of California's motor vehicle emission standards.
The larger question that is posed by Congressman Waxman's decision to seek a contempt of congress citation is how long will the American public suffer an Agency that is contemptuous of Congress and continues to place the public health of its citizens at risk? And, how long must the American public wait for Congress to ask for Administrator Johnson's resignation?
I summon the American public to action, as someone who fought on the front lines of democracy under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We must not sit idlely by as we wait for escalating environmental disasters in the face of governmental lawlessness. Not only has the Johnson Administration endangered our physical environment but it has exacted retribution and vicious retaliation against EPA employees who have had the courage to expose these dangerous and wreckless policies, such as Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. Under the Johnson administration, this courageous whistleblower and others, have received the most brutal and inhumane forms of retaliation and harassment.
Mr. Johnson's failures to carry out his responsibilities are well known and widely documented. A few examples will suffice:
According to the Department of Justice and the EPA's own data the Agency's pursuit of criminal cases against polluters declined sharply under Johnson's tenure with the number of prosecutions, new investigations, and total convictions all down by more than 30%;
On April 23, 2008, Representative Henry Waxman wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson. In it he reported:
"Almost 1,600 EPA scientists completed the Union of Concerned Scientists survey questionnaire. Over 22 percent of these scientists reported that 'selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory out come. occurred 'frequently' or 'occasionally' at EPA.
In August 2003, the Bush Administration denied a petition to regulate CO2 emissions from motor vehicles by deciding that CO2 was not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled that determination in Massachusetts v. EPA, which ruled that "If EPA makes a finding of endangerment, the Clean Air Act requires the agency to regulate emissions of the deleterious pollutant from new motor vehicles." Johnson's EPA set ozone pollution limits at unhealthy levels after rejecting the recommendations of the EPA's own scientists — and then weakened those limits further after a late-night intervention by President Bush on the eve of announcing the new standards.
The EPA turned down California's request to implement tougher vehicle emission standards to control greenhouse gases, thus forcing California, along with fifteen other states, to sue the Agency. The bitter irony is that the citizens of these states now must use scarce resources to force the EPA to carry out its mission... a mission already paid for by the Federal taxpayers of these states.
In remarkable defiance of Congressional oversight, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has flatly declined to respond to a House Global Warming Committee subpoena. The subpoena for documents relating to the EPA's refusal to obey the Supreme Court mandate to regulate greenhouse gases was issued by a unanimous, bipartisan vote on April 2, a year after the Supreme Court decision.
These few examples illustrate that Mr. Johnson, the nation's senior environmental official, has failed to develop and implement policies that will protect human health and the environment.
Retaliation against EPA Whistleblowers
Mr. Johnson's demonstrated inability to set and lead an effective national environmental agenda is matched only by his singular lack of management skills. His record of selective accountability among Agency personnel has allowed Agency managers to target some individuals for retaliation and persecution; this has sent a chilling message that exposing corruption and abuse will not be tolerated in his EPA. For example, EPA researcher Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo publicly revealed that working conditions at a US multinational corporation in South Africa harmed and sometimes killed workers from exposure to toxic chemicals. She was told to "shut up" when she reported these deaths. When she refused to exchange her silence for career advancement, the agency mounted a vicious campaign of reprisals against Dr. Coleman-Adebayo that included sexual and racial discrimination.
Dr. Coleman-Adebayo pursued a Title 7 complaint against the EPA and won a landmark decision that resulted in the introduction and passage of the first civil rights law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR). The law was signed by President George W. Bush. Despite this, Mr. Johnson has allowed his senior managers to continue to harass her, with resultant harm to her career and health. She was evacuated by ambulance from EPA headquarters, suffering a medical crisis after being ordered to return to the work under managers named in legal proceedings for retaliation and harassment.
Determined to break her family financially and to send an unequivocal message to other EPA employees, the Johnson Administration has forced Dr. Coleman-Adebayo to take medical leave without pay. With the same contempt that is shown to Congress on environmental issues, Administrator Johnson has ignored numerous letters from Members of Congress, including: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressmen John Conyers, Chris Van Hollen, Henry Waxman and Tom Davis, protesting such vile treatment and petitioning Administrator Johnson to detail her to Congress. Lately, the EPA has used every tactic available to protect Adm. Johnson from being deposed in a lawsuit brought by Dr. Coleman-Adebayo that will expose the on-going blatant retaliation at the EPA.
The poisoned climate engendered by these and other examples of managerial terrorism has created a work environment which stifles the open and frank scientific and policy dialogue necessary to carry out the challenging agenda of the Agency and to best protect both human health and the environment.
The removal of Mr. Johnson would send a clear message to the next administration that the American people will not tolerate this kind of abuse of the environment or of the civil servants who choose to devote their careers to serving the American public as environmental custodians. Accountability delayed is accountability denied. Please join me by signing below thus declaring with a resounding message that it is time for Mr. Johnson to go!
Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy
Member of Congress
Chair: National Black Leadership Conference
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