WASHINGTON — Four of President Bush's nominations for top jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency were put on hold Wednesday by Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), who said he was protesting the agency's refusal to provide him documents over the last three years.
Jeffords said he had been "stonewalled in getting information from the EPA," and pointed to 12 unmet requests for documents between May 2001, when he left the Republican Party and became an independent, and January 2004.
"I have bent over backward to try to accommodate the EPA, but my patience is now worn out," Jeffords said. "I had hoped that we could put the posturing aside, receive information to which we are entitled from this agency, and get on with a productive dialogue about environmental policy."
Most of the requests were made before Mike Leavitt became EPA administrator in November. The former Utah governor replaced Christie Whitman.
The documents mostly have to do with the Bush administration's changes to air pollution rules, which eased requirements that power plants install modern pollution-control equipment when expanding or significantly modifying operations.
"The information I requested, quite simply, would help us and the public better understand how the administration arrived at its questionable interpretations of the Clean Air Act," Jeffords said.
Jeffords, the most senior non-Republican member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was joined March 4 by the panel's chairman, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), in writing to Leavitt "to express our commonly held position that the agency is obligated to respond to requests from the chair and ranking member."
EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said the agency was reviewing Jeffords' request. "Hopefully we can resolve this issue soon," she said.
The four nominations Jeffords put on hold are:
* Stephen Johnson, the EPA's assistant administrator in charge of the office of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances, to deputy administrator, the No. 2 job in the agency.
* Ann R. Klee, a senior legal advisor to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, to become the agency's general counsel.
* Charles Johnson, to become the EPA's chief financial officer.
* Benjamin Grumbles, to assistant administrator overseeing the agency's office of water.