Friday, December 28, 2007

EPA Agrees to Preserve Records on Blocking California Rules

Given the secrecy the White House has spun around the activities of our national government over the last seven years, it is encouraging to see a federal agency acknowledge its responsibility to preserve a record of its work.
This is what the EPA did yesterday in response to a request for documents relating to the EPA's blocking of California air quality standards:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency signaled Thursday that it was prepared to comply with a Congressional request for all documents, including communications with the White House, concerning its decision to block California from imposing limits on heat-trapping gases.
The agency’s general counsel directed employees in a memorandum to preserve and produce all documents related to the decision, including any opposing views and communications between senior agency officials and the White House.
All well and good. But why should employees of public agencies need to be told to preserve the records of regulatory decisions? Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has posted the email ordering that documents be retained. According to PEER, the way in which EPA administrator Stephen Johnson announced the decision raises questions about the agency's deliberations:
Although Johnson’s decision on the request by California and other states to regulate greenhouse gases from automobiles was supposed to have been the product of months of legal and scientific deliberation, Johnson hastily called a press conference at 6:30 pm to cite the energy bill signed just that morning as the principal basis for his veto of state action. Senator Boxer in her letter characterized Johnson’s "two-page letter denying the waiver [as] devoid of any legal or technical analysis."
The email from EPA's general counsel brings back memories of Enron and Arthur Andersen:
EPA has received a second request for documents relating to the California waiver request. Please immediately take appropriate steps to preserve any such documents. You will also need to produce the documents.
Not all of the administration's penchant for secrecy has to do with national security issues. It is worth remembering that the first fight over opening up BushCo's records involved Dick Cheney's secretive energy task force.


Blogger Nancy Willing said...

....nor can we forget Meconi's sending in the shredder.

4:45 PM, December 28, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shred this, nance

5:20 PM, December 29, 2007  

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