Decision to Nix California Greenhouse Plan Prompts EPA Worker Protest

Unionized EPA workers are withdrawing from a cooperation agreement with the political appointees who supervise them over controversies including the agency's refusal to let California regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

Nineteen union local presidents representing more than 10,000 Environmental Protection Agency employees signed a letter to Administrator Stephen L. Johnson last Friday accusing him of "abuses of our good nature and trust."

Under Johnson's leadership EPA has ignored jointly developed principles of scientific integrity "whenever political direction from other federal entities or private sector interests so direct," the unions charged.

Asked for comment, EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said only: "As a 27-year career EPA scientist, the administrator values the expertise and advice of his staff and will do so through his time in leadership."

The letter cited the California greenhouse gas waiver denial and several other issues, including mercury emissions from power plants. The Bush administration recently lost a court case for not sufficiently weighing the health impact of its proposal for reducing mercury pollution.

"EPA boasts of the principles of scientific integrity before the Congress and the public as an example of EPA's dedication to using only good science in its decision-making, but refuses to agree to an adjudication process for resolving disputes arising from alleged violations," says the letter, released Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The union locals involved represent the vast majority of EPA workers around the country. Signers included William Evans, president of the EPA headquarters chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union.

Evans said that the purpose of the Clinton-era National Labor-Management Partnership Council was for senior agency officials and workers to deal with workplace and other issues before the decision stage.

Instead, "what we found is decisions are being made and they're being presented to us," said Evans.

The union leaders told Johnson they'd be suspending involvement in the partnership council "until we receive from you a clear commitment and specific direction."

The move follows a letter by a smaller group of union officers in January protesting Johnson's decision on the California waiver.