Conflict, Intrigue, and Business as Usual

Conflict, Intrigue, and Business as Usual

Alexa Schirtzinger
Published: 08/01/2008

Turns out I wasn’t the only one disgusted by EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson’s refusal to regulate emissons. Though Johnson’s supposed missteps were overshadowed by the allegations of corruption brought against longtime Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (and isn’t the Stephen-Stevens connection a nice touch?), I feel vindicated in knowing that at least three of our Senators are as disgusted with the EPA as I often feel.

On Tuesday, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for Johnson’s resignation, accusing him of siding with “polluters” over the American people and asking that the attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, investigate him for making “false or misleading statements” before a Senate committee. (See the complete Reuters story here.)

So…is it true? Is Johnson really having late-night trysts with big oil and all the rest of them? (If you want to be masochistic, read about Exxon’s record quarterly profits, again, here.)

The White House, of course, denies it all; spokesman Tony Fratto said everything Johnson has done as EPA administrator “has been with the interests of protecting the American people and our environment.” I guess that leaves a little room for other interests, too, though. And anyway, which American people is he talking about? Don Rumsfeld is as all-American as they get.

But that’s where the new state sovereignty—local sovereignty, in some cases—movement comes in. The following day, California brought a suit against the EPA for failing to act in a way that actually…um, protected the environment. When EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar called the suit “typical of the attorney general of California” (full article here), you could almost hear the disgust in his voice.

…And that’s when I gleefully rubbed my hands together and the little journalist-horns sprouted from my forehead. No, really: I spoke to a very personable West coast wilderness advocate today (more on that in our next batch of web exclusives), and he recounted how “the media” tried to pit “loggers and a logging town” against each other—in a town that hasn’t been a logging town in half a century, where there weren’t any loggers left, either—because the media liked conflict.

We do! We love it! And in our defense, sometimes the conflict is necessary if you ever want to find a viable solution. I like that California’s getting all huffy and starting big lawsuits, and I like that the senators are calling Johnson out, even if we all know those investigations will fade into oblivion before anybody takes action. I feel like the fact that we’re finally talking about these things means we're getting somewhere, though. And, deep down, I suspect you like the conflict a little bit, too. 

Photo courtesy U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Poland