Evidence Of EPA-Environmentalist Collusion Continues To Pile Up

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Evidence of collusion between environmental groups and the Obama administration is piling up, as Republican lawmakers release more correspondence between top agency officials and eco-lobbyists.

Republicans Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Darrell Issa of California have launched an investigation into the influence the Natural Resources Defense Council, a prominent environmental group, over the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” — a contentious rule that aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants already in operation.

Vitter and Issa have dug up emails between NRDC and EPA officials suggesting close coordination between the two groups. The Republicans’ latest email release, however, contains one email that got lawmakers especially concerned.

“Thank you for today’s announcement. I know how hard you and your team are working to move us forward and keep us on the rails. This announcement is a major achievement. … We will be with you at every step in the year ahead,” NRDC lobbyist David Doniger wrote in December 2010 to the EPA’s Gina McCarthy, who headed up the agency’s clean air office at the time. McCarthy now runs the entire EPA.

The announcement Doniger was thanking McCarthy for regards a 2010 legal settlement between NRDC (and other groups) and EPA. The settlement forced the EPA to begin crafting ways to regulate carbon emissions from power plants — the very rule that prompted Republican inquiries.

McCarthy responded, “Thanks David. I really appreciate your support and your patience. … The success is yours as much as mine.”

This email and others have Republican lawmakers concerned that NRDC and possibly other environmental groups played an outsized role in crafting EPA power plant regulations which would force many coal plants to permanently shut down.

“The EPA is clearly allowing the NRDC to assist in drafting federal regulation, with a heavy-hand in numerous economically destructive policies,” Vitter said in a statement. “This influence is putting American families and future generations on the hook for years of lost opportunity and regulatory burden.”

The EPA and NRDC have denied allegations made by Republicans.

“These emails show an advocacy group doing its job,” said David Goldston, NRDC’s director of government affairs. “We sent our priorities to EPA and made personnel suggestions. Welcome to Washington.”

“The dedicated women and men at EPA who worked tirelessly on this effort did exhaustive empirical research, investigation and the legal and policy design work,” EPA’s Tom Reynolds wrote in a recent blog post. “They reviewed a flood of information, applying and adhering closely to the Clean Air Act, and our own innovative analysis. And they crafted a proposal that ensures states and utilities have the flexibility they need to reduce carbon pollution in a practical and affordable way.”

“The fact is, EPA’s extraordinary outreach to business and industry, Main Street and Wall Street, elected officials, NGOs and others, coupled with the tireless work of dedicated Agency staff, is what led to this pragmatic, thoughtful and important proposal,” Reynolds added. “One that will cut harmful carbon pollution and lay the foundation for a clean energy future and a stronger economy for our country.”

But a July New York Times report paints a different picture of NRDC’s role in crafting the power plant rule.

Times reporter Coral Davenport wrote that NRDC lobbyists “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.” Their study was completed in late 2012 and NRDC lobbyists, including Doniger, started pitching the plan to the Obama administration.

“By late 2012, [NRDC lobbyists] 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.”

“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 wrote.

Update: This article has been updated with the EPA’s response.

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