Stephen L. Johnson

Stephen L. Johnson bigraphy, stories - American government official

Stephen L. Johnson : biography

March 21, 1951 –

Stephen L. Johnson (born March 21, 1951 in Washington, D.C.) was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush during the second term of his administration. He has received the Presidential Rank Award, the highest award that can be given to a civilian federal employee.

Post EPA

On June 29, 2010, clean technology company FlexEnergy announced that Johnson had joined its Board of Directors.

According to Johnson, the company’s technology can minimize air pollutants in congested cities and industrial sites, as well as provide energy in remote areas around the world.

On November 11, 2010, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company announced that Johnson had been named to its Board of Directors.

Johnson also sits on the Board of Trustees at his alma mater, Taylor University.

EPA Administrator

On January 26, 2005, when Leavitt became secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Johnson became acting administrator of EPA. On March 4, 2005, President George W. Bush nominated him formally for the permanent position. He became the first career employee to hold the position of Administrator and the first scientist to head the Agency.

During his April 6, 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, EPA was criticized for support of using human subjects in pesticide testing.

Johnson "did not have the opportunity to fully address the committee’s criticisms before the hearing was recessed."

In April 2005, a secret hold was placed on his confirmation vote while he evaluated the Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study, which advocated recording the effects of pesticides on children from infancy to age 3. In a letter that reached Senator Barbara Boxer several hours after she raised her concerns, Johnson said, "No additional work will be conducted on this study subject to the outcome of external scientific and ethical review."

On April 8, Johnson canceled the study. His nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 29. On February 6, 2006, he issued a final regulation "prohibiting new research involving intentional exposure of pregnant women or children intended for submission to the EPA under the pesticide laws" and other protections. 

Johnson tried to block the efforts of 17 states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy. He defended his position by arguing that “The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules. I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone.” The state rules he was blocking were more stringent than the Bush administration’s proposed national solution.

Johnson came under investigation for allowing the White House to improperly interfere with the decision to grant California a waiver to limit greenhouse gases. On May 20, 2008, Johnson was questioned for three hours by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. On July 29, 2008, four Senators called for Johnson's resignation, alleging he made false statements to Congress. 

On December 9, 2008, the Office of Inspector General, US EPA concluded that "EPA’s California waiver decision on greenhouse gas automobile emissions met statutory procedural requirements."

On May 19, 2009, President Obama also concluded: "a clear and uniform national policy is also good news for the auto industry which will no longer be subjected to a costly patchwork of differing rules and regulations."

Johnson’s stance on this and other issues was criticized in an editorial by the scientific journal Nature, which claimed he acted with "reckless disregard for law, science or the agency’s own rules — or, it seems, the anguished protests of his own subordinates." In spite of this external criticism and over the objections of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Council of Economic Advisors, and Small Business Administration, Johnson issued the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, "Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under the Clean Air Act."