EPA Chief Says NY Times Report Was Given ‘Surprising Credibility’

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy denied Wednesday that environmental lobbyists played an outsized role in crafting the agency’s carbon dioxide regulations.

The claim comes from a New York Times article from July 6, outlining how a report authored by influential lobbyists with the Natural Resources Defense Council was used by the Obama administration “as its blueprint” for its recent regulations on power plant emissions.

McCarthy said the Times piece, by seasoned environmental reporter Coral Davenport, was given “surprising credibility” by Republicans, and denied that NRDC and other environmental groups had undue influence over the agency’s carbon rule.

“It’s a discredit to [EPA employees] to suggest that this was designed by one group months ago,” McCarthy told lawmakers in a Wednesday hearing. “This is a result of hard work.”

“I have met many more times with utilities than I have with NRDC,” McCarthy added.

But Republicans did not seem to buy her arguments, and criticized the EPA for listening to wealthy liberal elites over ordinary Americans.

“It is absolutely shameful to me that the EPA under the direction here of the Administrator, will allow this powerful group of lawyers and lobbyists to draft their regulations – but yet this same Administrator refuses to actually listen to the people whose lives and jobs will be severely impacted by these regulations drawn up by wealthy lawyers and lobbyists,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso during the hearing.

“Let’s be clear, the NRDC is a wealthy, elite, powerful lobbying machine with more than influence over decision making in Washington than and ordinary American citizen,” Barrasso added. “They have millions, which gives them access. The EPA has turned a deaf ear on those who don’t.”

In her July article, Davenport says 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.”

That effort was begun in November 2010, the NRDC report was released in late 2012 and the EPA proposed its carbon rule for new power plants in September 2013. Its rule for existing plants came in June 2014.

“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,” Davenport 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 since denied the NRDC’s reportedly large influence, which McCarthy repeated during Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

“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,” Davenport added.

“The goal was to move this idea very quickly into the public conversation and affect as many people’s thinking as possible,” Doniger wrote to Davenport in an email.

“E.P.A. officials did not start working in earnest on the rule until fall 2013, when they held sessions around the country to hear from regulators, utilities and many others the Natural Resources Defense Council had by then been briefing for months,” Davenport wrote. “Many told the E.P.A. that they wanted to see an innovative plan like the one they had heard about from the council, even if they did not specifically name it as the group’s plan.”

“They were the first out of the gate,” Adam Kushner, a former top EPA legal official, told Davenport. “And the first out of the gate frames the debate.”

Davenport did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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