Republicans are launching an investigation into the cozy relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency and an environmental lobbying group that has allegedly played a major role in crafting recent global warming rules and stymieing an Alaska mining project.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and California Rep. Darrell Issa sent a letter to the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) asking for records regarding the environmental group’s role in drafting a rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, and blocking a permit for the Pebble Mine in Alaska.
“It appears that NRDC’s unprecedented access to high-level EPA officials allowed it to influence EPA policy decisions and achieve its own private agenda,” Republicans wrote to the EPA and NRDC. “Such collusive activities provide the NRDC, and their financial backers, with an inappropriate opportunity to wield the broad powers of the executive branch.”
“The fact that an ideological and partisan group drafted a rule that places a tremendous cost on everyday Americans through increased electricity prices is harmful and outrageous,” the letter continued. “Accordingly, these practices must cease immediately.”
The Republican investigation comes after a New York Times report detailed the role NRDC lobbyists played in crafting a carbon dioxide regulatory proposal that would become the blueprint for the EPA’s own proposal to reduce power-plant emissions.
In July, The New York Times reported that 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.”
“By late 2012, Mr. Doniger, Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Lashof had finished their proposal and began to travel across the country to present it to state regulators, electric utilities, executives and anyone else they expected to have a hand in shaping the rules,” the Times reported. “In Washington, Mr. Doniger briefed Mr.Goffman [the EPA’s top clean air lawyer] and Mr. Obama’s senior climate adviser at the time, Heather Zichal.”
The EPA has repeatedly denied that NRDC played an outsized role in crafting the agency’s carbon dioxide emissions limits, which aim to cut existing power plant emissions 30 percent by 2030.
But email records show that NRDC President Francis Beineke had access to former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s personal email account. An email sent from Beinecke on Feb. 5, 2009 said NRDC “plays a leadership role in the environmental community on matters of environmental health,” and also mentioned that Jackson would meet top NRDC attorneys and scientists in the coming weeks.
Beinecke also attached a document to the email containing NRDC’s top short-term policy priorities for federal agencies, which they were “anxious to brief” Jackson and other top EPA officials on.
The email between Beinecke and Jackson was uncovered by Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Chris Horner in a slew of EPA records covering Jackson’s use of an alias email account.
“If anyone deserves credit for giving us ideas about how to [regulate carbon dioxide emissions], 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 the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Indisputable, however, is that the Natural Resources Defense Council was far ahead of the EPA in drafting the architecture of the proposed regulation,” the Times reported. “EPA officials did not start working in earnest on the rule until fall 2013… Many told the EPA that they wanted to see an innovative plan like the one they had heard about from [NRDC], even if they did not specifically name it as the group’s plan.”
Not long after the Times article, Vitter and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a landmark report detailing the billions of dollars made available to environmental groups by wealthy individuals and foundations to influence federal policies.
“This report proves that the Obama EPA has been deliberately staffed at the highest levels with far-left environmental activists who have worked hand-in-glove with their former colleagues,” reads the Senate Republican’s report. “The green-revolving door at EPA has become a valuable asset for the far-left and their wealthy donors. In addition to providing insider access to important policy decisions, it appears activists now at EPA also funnel government money through grants to their former employers and colleagues.”
Vitter and Issa also note that NRDC has gotten $1,877,907 in grants from the EPA since January 2009, along with millions in funding from wealthy donors in foundations from New York and California.
“Sen. Vitter, Rep. Issa and their colleagues are acting as if fighting for public health were an un-American activity,” NRDC spokesman Ed Chen said in a statement. “Democratic and Republican presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower have worked to curb pollution and protect our natural resources.”
“It is tragic that in 2014, Sen. Vitter and his colleagues fail to understand that Americans want the air they breathe and the water they drink to be clean,” Chen added.
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