Lawmaker considers EPA subpoenas in global warming probe

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer will try to subpoena long-sought Enviornmental Protection Agency documents as early as next week as part of her probe into allegations that the White House suppressed testimony and other findings regarding the dangers of global warming.

Boxer said Tuesday she wants EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson "to release every document related to the agency's finding that global warming poses a danger to the public."

EPA also needs to release a notice that the agency plans to regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, she said, adding that Johnson should resign if he does not do so or fails to release the documents in question.

Boxer's effort comes after recent comments by a former EPA official that Vice President Dick Cheney's office pushed to redact six of 14 pages of congressional testimony in October by Centers for Disease Control Director Julie Gerberding on the public health risks of global warming.

Former Associate Deputy EPA Administrator Jason Burnett, who resigned last month, wrote in a letter dated July 6 to Boxer that the White House suppressed an "endangerment finding" from EPA citing dangers of global warming. Burnett will testify at a hearing Boxer plans to hold July 22. He has refused to say specifically who in Cheney's office was involved.

The White House said Gerberding's testimony was cut because the global warming science was questioned - a claim Boxer says is untrue.

A Boxer aide said the committee is investigating the matter, noting that "it's clearly misconduct" for the White House to redact Gerberding's testimony. But the aide did not weigh in on whether it was illegal. "We are looking at a broad array of possibilities," the aide said.

It is also unclear exactly what Boxer can do. She has been letting a fellow California Democrat, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.,take the lead in subpoenaing EPA documents because she has been unable to get Republicans to show up and provide a quorum to hold a subpoena vote.

"Many of you know it's tricky to get subpoena power," Boxer told reporters. She added that she may try to do so herself: "I can't ask Henry to do all the heavy lifting; I have to try."

According to Boxer, Burnett's letter could be used by California in its effort to sue EPA for blocking implementation of a statewide plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes. "I think this information will bolster California," Boxer said.

The White House has said that the energy legislation signed into law in December boosting federal fuel efficiency standards made the endangerment finding moot. But Burnett, who joined Boxer Tuesday, said that bill did not change the law.

The 31-year-old Burnett was hired by Johnson in June 2007 to lead the agency's response to the Supreme Court's ruling, issued two months prior, that EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. He resigned this June after concluding that "no more productive work responding to the Supreme Court could be accomplished under this Administration," he wrote Boxer.

He was one of the officials who worked on the endangerment finding, but said he does not have a copy. An EPA spokesman said the agency might release an advanced notice of a proposed global warming regulation as early as Friday. He also noted that EPA has provided Democrats with thousands of requested documents.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., said redacting Gerberding's testimony is "a nonissue. All administrations edit testimony before it is submitted to Congress."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
X CLOSE Don't show again

Like us on Facebook