Emails released by congressional Republicans suggest environmentalists have used their cozy relationship with top Environmental Protection Agency officials to exert influence on public policy.
Republicans in the House and Senate have launched investigations into collusion between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an influential environmental group. (RELATED: Republicans To Investigate Coziness Between The EPA And Enviros)
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who launched the investigation with California Rep. Darrell Issa, released emails Wednesday to bolster the case for their investigation.
“The EPA is clearly allowing the NRDC to assist in drafting federal regulation, with a heavy-hand in numerous economically destructive policies,” Vitter said. “This influence is putting American families and future generations on the hook for years of lost opportunity and regulatory burden.”
Issa and Vitter’s investigation stemmed from news reports that the NRDC essentially wrote the blueprint for the EPA’s latest global warming rule — which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030.
The power plant rule is one of the most far-reaching rules ever proposed by the agency and could force some states to completely restructure their energy sectors. The rule has come under intense criticism from the Republicans, the coal industry and many other groups who are worried electricity prices will spike.
New emails released by Vitter suggest a level of collusion between federal officials and activists. The most telling email, one from 2011, contains no words in its body but contains the subject line, “Accepted: Meeting with NRDC on Section 111 Standards for Power Plants.” The meeting was set as NRDC was crafting a policy proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
NRDC lobbyists David Doniger, David Hawkins and Daniel Lashof “worked with a team of experts to write a 110-page proposal, widely viewed as innovative and audacious, that was aimed at slashing planet-warming carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants,” The New York Times reported in July.
NRDC began crafting their plan in November 2010 and released their report in late 2012. The EPA proposed its carbon rule for new power plants in September 2013 and the agency released its rule for existing plants in June 2014.
“Indisputable, however, is that the Natural Resources Defense Council was far ahead of the E.P.A. in drafting the architecture of the proposed regulation,” the Times reported.
A 2009 email chain, released by Vitter, between then Deputy Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy and NRDC’s Lashof talks about meeting up to talk environmental policy as well as a possible job opportunity.
Lashof wrote to McCrarthy on June 23, 2009: “Congratulations on [your] confirmation. Do you have any time next week to get together?”
Lashof’s congratulations was preceded by emails between he and McCarthy from April 2009 that talk about a possible job opportunity for Lashof at the EPA. “I understand that my colleague Dale Bryk has forwarded my resume with some kind words about me. I’m excited by the possibility of joining your team,” Lashof wrote.
“As the Obama Administration seeks to make rapid progress on air pollution, climate and energy, I am uniquely positioned to help forge a workable and effective strategy that combines Clean Air Act implementation and new legislation,” Lashof added.
McCarthy responded, “Dan – anyone who earns such praise from Dale’s gets on my radar screen. I should have my feet more firmly planted in DC within a few weeks and we can talk then. Please email again if you don’t hear from me soon after my confirmation hearing. It will be good to meet you.”
Another email released by Vitter, which was previously reported on by The Daily Caller News Foundation, showed NRDC’s president Frances Beinecke telling former EPA chief Lisa Jackson that the group “plays a leadership role in the environmental community on matters of environmental health.” The emails also mentioned that Jackson would be able to meet top NRDC attorneys and scientists in the coming weeks.
“If anyone deserves credit for giving us ideas, it’s the states and communities on the ground that are already cutting pollution through the approaches we’re calling for in the proposal – cleaner, more efficient energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy,” an EPA spokeswoman told TheDCNF in response to the Republican investigation.
“Many states are in the process of implementing renewable energy goals or renewable portfolio standards and they informed us about how they went about undertaking those activities that had beneficial impact on CO2 emissions,” the agency spokeswoman added. “It wasn’t about a series of proposals, more about on the ground experiences and policy approaches that states and utilities are already taking. Having clean air should not be a political issue. We are doing our jobs—as the courts have reaffirmed for us—to protect public health and the environment.”
The NRDC defended its relationship with the EPA.
”These emails show an advocacy group doing its job,” David Goldston, NRDC’s director of government affairs, told TheDCNF. “We sent our priorities to EPA and made personnel suggestions. Welcome to Washington.”
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