Legal & Regulatory

Collusion Alleged Between EPA and NRDC

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee released emails between top officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which they say demonstrate a “very close working relationship” between the two organizations.

The emails are associated with the development of the EPA’s proposed carbon rule, and date back to 2011. The rule—known as the Clean Power Plan—was released on June 2, 2014.

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the EPW Committee, said: “Even though both sides have vehemently denied it, these discoveries clearly demonstrate the EPA and NRDC’s beyond-cozy relationship and force the question—Who is working for whom? The key example in all of this is the settlement agreement on greenhouse gases when the NRDC sued the EPA, the EPA settled, and the two celebrate the agreement. It doesn’t get any more blatantly obvious than that.”

The item Vitter was specifically citing is a congratulatory email from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to David Doniger, policy director for the NRDC’s Climate Center, following the announcement by the EPA that it would issue rules to address greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled power plants and refineries. Another email, sent June 8, 2011, included a presentation given by the NRDC to an EPA workgroup, which the senator says included the basis of the ultimately proposed carbon rule.

The NRDC touts itself as “the nation’s most effective environmental action group . . . with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.” However, it refutes Vitter’s claim that it received special treatment by the EPA.

In a blog post on its website, David Goldston wrote: “The President had publicly announced that EPA would be working on cutting carbon pollution—that wasn’t exactly a secret. What happened is the equivalent of EPA announcing it was going to order a pizza. NRDC said, ‘We think you should order a cheese pizza.’  Then, months later, EPA ordered a pizza that included cheese. Conspiracy!”

The EPA has repeatedly stated that it “directly engaged with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others,” which “helped guide the development of the proposal.” Last month it extended the public comment period for the Clean Power Plan by 45 days—from its original mid-October deadline to Dec. 1.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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