By Timothy Cama - 04/29/14 04:36 PM EDT
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have delayed proposing limits to carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants with an eye on this year's November vote.
“Based on the sequence of events, it appears that the delay in the proposal’s publication may have been motivated by a desire to lessen the impact of the president’s harmful environmental policies on this year’s midterm elections,” Inhofe, ranking member of the oversight subcommittee within the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote in a Monday letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Democratic members of Congress in tough contests may have been forced to defend themselves against the Obama administration policy, the senator said, but now the rule will not be finalized this year.
The EPA announced the proposed rule on Sept. 20, the day Obama had requested. But the agency did not submit it for publication in the Federal Register until Nov. 25, far longer than the usual time-frame, Inhofe said.
“If EPA had kept the timetable mandated by the president, it would have been obligated to finalize the new rule about six weeks before the 2014 elections,” Inhofe said. “Now, because of EPA’s delay, the proposal will not need to be finalized until well after this election cycle.”
The letter came after Inhofe wrote to the Office of the Federal Register to determine when the EPA submitted the proposal for new power plants. The timeline differs from what McCarthy told lawmakers in January, which was that the EPA submitted the proposed rule to the Federal Register immediately after the Sept. 20 announcement.
Inhofe’s letter to McCarthy asks her details about how and why the submission was delayed, and what role the White House Office of Management and Budget had in the decision.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said her agency’s actions were above-board.
“EPA follows routine interagency and internal processes to ensure that formatting, consistency and quality control issues are addressed before any rule package is published in the Federal Register,” Purchia said in a statement. “This is a normal part of the rulemaking process, and the time needed for these procedures varies for each rule.”
Purchia blamed the delay somewhat on the October federal government shutdown. After submitting the documents to the Federal Register, the EPA then sought to have the proposal published after New Year’s so that agency personnel could be available to answer questions, she said.
Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, accused EPA of “playing politics with their job-killing energy policies.”
“While the EPA thinks they are being cute, voters will see through this political fig leaf aimed at aiding vulnerable Democrats,” Wilcox said in a statement.