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Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington April 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts) Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington April 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)  

Conservative group sues EPA over its ‘IRS-like’ tactics

A conservative environmental law group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its alleged “IRS-like” tactics, including stone-walling federal records requests and imposing fees on conservative groups that sought government records.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute is trying to force the EPA to release records previously denied under a Freedom of Information Act request looking for agency records regarding clean water rules as they relate to mining operations. E&E Legal argues that such information is crucial to the public understanding issues surrounding the EPA’s “War on Coal.”

In this case, E&E Legal was looking for records regarding the EPA’s veto of an already-granted permit to a coal mine in Logan County, W.V. The EPA vetoed the permit to save the mayfly, an insect that the agency says is harmed by surface mining.

“EPA’s behavior is a clear parallel to the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,” E&E Legal counsel Chris Horner told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Both impose financial hurdles in the way of groups they disapprove of, draining resources from those they see as threats and impeding the groups from pursuing their mission.”

“That we have learned that the Office of Inspector General is preparing to yet again cover for these abuses only adds to the similarities,” Horner added.

E&E Legal says the EPA has hindered six attempts by the group to get government records related to the EPA mayfly decision. The EPA has refused to waive FOIA-related fees to the group, saying that E&E “failed to express an intention to broadly disseminate” the requested information. E&E says it has gone so far as to insert a picture of a “chalkboard” in a FOIA request with the phrase “We intend to broadly disseminate responsive information” written ten times. The EPA even denied this request.

“The [FOIA] request is being blocked by the latest in a pattern of behavior by the agency directed at plaintiffs, improperly denying the fee waiver provided by statute for non-profit groups that broadly disseminate public information of significant public interest,” Horner writes in his court filing.

“They are of significant public interest due to the ongoing controversy surrounding the EPA’s “War on Coal,’” Horner adds. “Particularly, the EPA’s actions concerning mining activity through the regulation of selenium for its possible impact on insect populations are ongoing matters of public controversy.”

“Specifically, EPA denies fee waiver requests for groups that generally oppose EPA’s regulatory agenda while routinely granting them for ideologically aligned groups with which it works closely on shared agenda, which is the subject of an ongoing EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) inquiry,” Horner continues.