A One-Step Guide to Infuriating an EPA Official

The agency chief touts her staff’s work after a Republican accused her committee of kowtowing to a green group.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.
National Journal
Jason Plautz
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Jason Plautz
July 23, 2014, 10:09 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans are ac­cus­ing the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency of let­ting a green group write its land­mark cli­mate rules, and EPA isn’t happy about it.

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Bar­rasso of Wyom­ing ac­cused EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy Wed­nes­day of let­ting the Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil dic­tate its rules, say­ing the agency had de­ferred to the group’s “power­ful, wealthy, Wash­ing­ton law­yers and lob­by­ists” while writ­ing the agency’s car­bon-pol­lu­tion rules for ex­ist­ing power plants.

“They [the NRDC] have mil­lions, which gives them ac­cess. The EPA has turned a deaf ear on those who don’t,” Bar­rasso said at an En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

Mc­Carthy wasn’t hav­ing it, and when it came time for ques­tions and an­swers, when Bar­rasso asked why EPA had let NRDC write the rule, Mc­Carthy curtly replied, “We did not.”

Later in the hear­ing, Mc­Carthy said the al­leg­a­tions were a “dis­cred­it” to EPA staff who had worked around the clock to meet with stake­hold­ers from all sides to design the cli­mate rule.

And Mc­Carthy’s Sen­ate al­lies were swift to fire back, with in­de­pend­ent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont say­ing it was “re­mark­able that my Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues would dare to raise the is­sue of cam­paign fin­ance” be­fore tick­ing down a list of fig­ures on the spend­ing done by the oil and gas in­dustry.

“Is there money com­ing in­to the polit­ic­al pro­cess from wealthy lib­er­als? The an­swer is yes,” Sanders said. “But that money is clearly dwarfed by the amount of money com­ing in from the fossil-fuel in­dustry.”

The GOP charges come in re­sponse to a New York Times story this month that said a policy out­line draf­ted by the NRDC had served as the “blue­print” for EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which would re­quire emis­sion cuts of 30 per­cent from power plants by 2030. NRDC in 2012 re­leased a pro­pos­al on how to reg­u­late emis­sions from power plants that would have set dif­fer­ent lim­its for states and al­lowed re­gion­al flex­ib­il­ity, a strategy EPA em­braced in its own rule.

EPA has denied that NRDC ex­er­cised clout in writ­ing the rule — a blog post days after the story by Janet Mc­Cabe, act­ing chief of the agency’s air of­fice, de­scribed meet­ing with “lit­er­ally thou­sands” of stake­hold­ers dur­ing the draft­ing pro­cess.

But that hasn’t stopped crit­ics from seiz­ing on the sup­posed in­flu­ence as a sign of what they say is a crooked draft­ing pro­cess. Bar­rasso on Wed­nes­day prom­ised to fol­low up with a doc­u­ment re­quest on NRDC’s role, with a jab at the re­cent dis­clos­ure that EPA had lost some emails due to a hard-drive crash.

“If the an­swer is no, that you will not com­ply, or that there are more re­cord-keep­ing mis­haps, broken hard drives, lost files, then we’ll know the truth about this agency as well,” Bar­rasso said.

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