Monday, April 23, 2007

EPA chief heads for the hotseat..and why does trafficpollution harm women more than men?

Pity may be the correct emotion to feel for EPA chief Steve Johnson tomorrow. He’s going to have to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the subject of “The Implications of the Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding EPA’s Authorities with Respect to Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act.”

In other words, Johnson will have to defend the indefensible Bush administration policy on global warming. Make no mistake about it: Johnson does not have authority to act independently here. He must toe the White House line. And tomorrow he will recycle a lot of tired spin.

In his prepared remarks, Johnson asserts that even before the Supreme Court decision, “the Administration had been implementing aggressive steps to tackle climate change.” That’s why emissions keep increasing every year.

About EPA’s reaction to the Supreme Court decision, Johnson says “given the complexity of the decision and the very short time that has elapsed since the Court issued the opinion, at this early date it is impossible today to understand and explain fully how the decision may have any specific impact.” So it appears that the White House has ordered EPA to continue dragging its feet.

Expect the committee’s chair, Senator Barbara Boxer, to try boxing Johnson in – especially about when EPA will take action on California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. But don’t expect Johnson to give a satisfactory answer.

It could be pretty good theater, however.

Other witnesses include former EPA chief Carol Browner, who will argue that EPA should grant the California request, but also point out the need for “congressional leadership and immediate action.” Also testifying is former EPA chief Bill Reilly, now co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, though testifying on his own behalf. About the Supreme Court decision, Reilly notes, “the law has now been settled and EPA does have the authority [to regulate greenhouse gases]. I might add that if I were EPA Administrator, I would welcome that authority."

More reason for Steve Johnson to feel miserable.

New study finds women at extra risk: A new study in the medical journal Thorax found that women who live near busy roads suffered reduced lung function. The researchers, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health, studied nearly 16,000 middle-aged men and women in Winston-Salem, NC, Jackson, MS, suburban Minneapolis, MN, and Hagerstown, MD. This is the largest published study of traffic exposure and pulmonary function in adults to date.

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