Emissions Decision Critics Target EPA Blog

A Web presence can be risky, especially when your boss's legal interpretations wind up in court.

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Here's a new way to drive traffic to your website: Deny California permission under the Clean Air Act to control greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

Yes, since its inception last July, the Flow of the River blog by Marcus Peacock, the Environmental Protection Agency's deputy administrator, has never seen anything quite like the activity of the past week. That's when the Union of Concerned Scientists decided to use it as a platform to criticize the EPA's California decision.

Until now, Peacock's observations on federal regulation and on life would elicit no more than a handful of responses. But thanks to the UCS-launched blog campaign, Peacock has garnered more than 570 comments to his recent posting on, of all things, the risks of blogging.

It appears that the old media touched off the new-media frenzy. UCS's attention was first drawn to Flow of the River when Washington Post columnist Al Kamen wrote about Peacock's eclectic postings last week. Peacock, in turn, blogged about the Kamen column and ruminated on how the risks of blogging were outweighed by the benefits of fostering communication. The first few responses he received were quite supportive.

Then things took a harsh turn four days later, when a huge volume of comments began to flow in, many using the exact words (or riffs on the theme): "Ignoring EPA scientists and analysts on an issue as central as global warming pollution from vehicles is not a way to 'encourage risks and test innovative ideas.' " UCS also asked commenters to send copies of their postings to the advocacy group, so it could monitor the EPA's monitoring of comments. So far, it appears EPA is posting the criticisms, although not responding to them.

Of course, technically, it was not Peacock but his boss, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, who deep-sixed California's auto emissions program on December 19. Johnson, however, has no blog.

Have no fear, though, because Johnson will have a chance to hear his critics both in federal court, where Iowa and Florida this week brought to 19 the number of states joining California in a lawsuit against EPA, and on Capitol Hill, where the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's chairman, Henry Waxman, has just subpoenaed all documents leading up to Johnson's decision.