EXCLUSIVE: Watchdog Group Sounds Alarm About Top EPA Official’s Ties To Prestigious Legal Center

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James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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A conservative watchdog organization is sounding the alarm over a top EPA official’s relationship with Georgetown University Law Center, which has sought to influence EPA policy on multiple occasions, documents show.

EPA Deputy General Counsel for Nationwide Resource Protection Susannah Weaver was given approval by the agency to sit on the GULC board of visitors, as long as she does not identify herself with the agency and abides by ethical standards, according to an Aug. 2021 memo provided to the Daily Caller by Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), a conservative watchdog group.

PPT filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to obtain internal documents from the EPA, (RELATED: The Biden Admin Hands Out Millions To Green Groups That Supported His Climate Bill)

“This authorization is really one that makes people shake their heads. It would be one thing if this were an official who was raising money for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. But Ms. Weaver is on the board and able to fundraise for an organization whose activism frequently involves issues EPA is dealing with, at times by engaging directly with the agency – as FOIA records we have obtained show,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain told the Caller. He previously served in the Education Department under former President Donald Trump.

“Similar to the decision allowing Christopher Frey, the agency’s top science official, to remain associated with a university that is considered to be an arm of the Chinese government while at the EPA, this is one more instance of questionable judgment by [EPA Administrator] Michael Regan, his senior staff, and their apparently pliable ethics officials,” he added. “Certainly, for an administration touting itself as the most ethical in history, this fails to clear the bar.”


Susannah Weaver Outside Activity Approval by James Lynch on Scribd

An archived webpage shows Weaver touted her EPA position while serving on the GULC board until she was asked to remove it in the agency memo. Weaver graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 2008 and joined the EPA in June 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile.

In her uncompensated position, Weaver works for the GULC by providing advice to the dean and assisting the law center with fundraising, the GULC website states. She is not allowed to use her EPA position for fundraising and cannot solicit donations from any person who may be affected by the EPA’s work, per the memo. 

“Because the Board of Visitors appear to engage in fundraising for GULC, please note that, as a federal employee, you now have certain additional restrictions,” an EPA ethics official told Weaver. “[Y]ou cannot personally solicit funds from any subordinate or from any person known to you to be a prohibited source of this Agency that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of your official duties. In addition, you cannot use or permit the use of your EPA official title, position or affiliation to further any fundraising effort,” the memo stipulated.


Susannah Weaver_EPA_Ethics Recusal Statement by James Lynch on Scribd

Weaver acknowledged the potential conflicts of interest in her recusal statement about her ethics obligations. In the statement, she mentioned the financial conflict she has working for the GULC and vowed to recuse herself from any particular matter that will have a direct affect on Georgetown University unless she obtains a written waiver. She also pledged to recuse herself in any legal matters involving former clients.

“I have been advised by OGC/Ethics that I have an imputed financial interest based on my position as a member of the Board of Visitors of Georgetown University Law Center,” Weaver wrote. “Therefore, I cannot participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that will have a direct and predictable effect on Georgetown University as a specific party or as a member of an affected class, unless I first obtain a written waiver.”

The EPA’s ties to Georgetown go far beyond Weaver’s board seat due to legal work done by the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) in conjunction with the agency. GCC policy makers sent recommendations for the EPA for implementing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, President Biden’s signature climate law, documents show.


Gtown Climate Center Comments to EPA by James Lynch on Scribd

The GCC also sent the EPA comments on behalf of the Air Quality Monitoring Working Group of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States, which brings together environmental officials from nearly a dozen states. The climate center’s comments included recommendations that the EPA use IRA funding to support state efforts to develop community-based air monitoring programs, work more closely with state partners, streamline the gathering and usage of air quality data and clarify the data quality and methods needed for air quality projects, the documents show. 

“The IRA’s infusion of funding to expand community-based air quality monitoring throughout the country could yield valuable lessons along with policy-relevant data and information to help inform decisions about where pollution-reducing investments and policies are most-needed, and, over time, whether these policies are achieving expected results,” the GCC wrote to the EPA in Jan. 2023.


GCC EV Emails by James Lynch on Scribd

Prior to the IRA, the GCC and EPA held discussions about the role the EPA could play in supporting electric vehicle infrastructure investments, emails show. Building out electric vehicle charging stations in rural and underserved communities was the primary topic of a July 2021 conversation between the two parties. The emails also indicate that further conversations about electric vehicles took place between the GCC and EPA.

Additionally, the GULC’s Environmental Law and Justice Clinic (ELJC) filed an amicus brief supporting the agency in the Supreme Court case West Virginia v. EPA, on behalf of leading medical and public health organizations. SCOTUS ended up ruling 6-3 against the EPA, thereby limiting its regulatory authority. (RELATED: Biden Admin Pushed Out $182 Billion Worth Of Regulations In A Single Week)

The GULC sent another amicus brief on behalf of 167 Democratic Congressional lawmakers arguing on behalf of the EPA in the Supreme Court case Sackett v. EPA. SCOTUS ruled unanimously in May against the agency in the case, reducing the scope of the EPA’s authority to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA defended Weaver’s work on behalf of GULC in a statement to the Caller.

“Maintaining high ethical standards is in the best interest of the public we serve and our obligation. In her ethics pledge, Susannah Weaver committed to uphold these high ethical standards. Weaver sought the guidance of EPA’s ethics officials to ensure she met and continues to meet those obligations and duly included her relationship with the Georgetown University Law Center in a recusal statement to avoid any potential conflict of interest,” EPA press secretary Tim Carroll said.

“Because Weaver’s role as Deputy General Counsel rarely involves any financial decision-making or interaction with GULC, any conflict of interest is unlikely, but she has and will continue to appropriately follow through with the necessary steps to comply with her recusal statement and ethics pledge, in coordination with the Agency’s career ethics officials,” Carroll added.

Georgetown University told the Caller that Weaver’s term on the board of visitors is coming to an end in June, after which she will no longer be a member. “Weaver is an alumni and a member of the Board of Visitors, the dean’s primary alumni advisory board. Weaver’s term ends June 30 this year so she will no longer be a member. We do not ask, nor would we allow, BOV members to make solicitations on behalf of Georgetown Law,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also clarified the relationship between the GCC and ELJC and the EPA. “The Environmental Law & Justice Clinic does not work with the EPA and staff of the clinic has had no contact with Weaver. On behalf of its clients, it works on environmental policy issues that the EPA may also be working on. The Georgetown Climate Center serves as a resource to state, federal and local policymakers who are working to develop policies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution but has never worked directly with Weaver.”

Weaver did not respond to a request for comment.