Carper Decides to Block Vote on EPA Nominee

WASHINGTON (April 14, 2005) – Because of the Bush administration’s continued refusal to deliver information he has repeatedly requested on how to cut air pollution from power plants, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today announced that he would block a confirmation vote on the nomination of Stephen Johnson to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The senator this morning officially placed a “hold” on the nomination, meaning it can’t be brought to the Senate floor without significant and prolonged debate. “I do this with a heavy heart and with much regret because I think Stephen Johnson is well-qualified to head the EPA,” said Carper. “He would serve the agency well – if the White House would let him. Unfortunately, the White House doesn’t have a good history with that. It stymied the effectiveness of its past two administrators – both friends of mine, Christie Whitman and Mike Leavitt – and I don’t see any reason to believe the administration won’t also hinder Mr. Johnson’s ability to fulfill congressional requests and work with Congress to develop sound environmental policy.” For the past two years, Carper has requested a detailed, technical analysis of the economic, health and environmental impacts of clean air legislation he has introduced to significantly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide. But while the administration has conducted such an analysis of the president’s “Clear Skies” proposal, it has consistently refused to conduct such an analysis of the Carper plan, known as the Clean Air Planning Act. Carper said the administration’s refusal is against historical precedent and that such information is necessary if Congress is to pass clean air legislation this year. “The EPA and other federal agencies have historically provided unbiased scientific information on legislation before Congress,” said Carper. “For the past several years, however, the EPA has been constrained from doing this. I’ve repeatedly been denied an analysis of my proposal, presumably because the White House is afraid of what it might show. But the agency has a duty to provide technical assistance to Congress. If the administration is serious about getting clean air legislation done this year, it will fulfill my request so we can get back to the negotiating table and work out a good clean air plan for all Americans.” Carper said his move to block the nomination is not about partisan politics, nor obstructionism. “People can try to label me an obstructionist, if they like, but I pride myself on my ability to reach across the aisle and forge common ground. My goal here isn’t to stand in the way of anything. My goal is to get clean air legislation done this year. The committee last month failed to pass the president’s clean air plan because lawmakers on both sides of the aisle believe we can do better, that we can write a stronger clean air law. The EPA should stand ready to help Congress do its job, not stand in its way.”