House Republicans threaten to subpoena EPA over carbon rules

House Republicans threatened to subpoena the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday for various documents related to its rule unveiled last year to limit carbon emissions from new power plants.

The Energy and Commerce Committee has been communicating with EPA officials since March about the rules for new power plants, which were formally published in January. The rules set carbon pollution limits based on what is achievable under carbon capture technology.

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But the Clean Air Act only allows the EPA to mandate standards based on technology that is “adequately demonstrated.” The EPA based its standards on three carbon capture projects that are funded by the Energy Department.

The committee asked for a wide array of documents related to how it wrote the proposed regulations, outlined in eight bullet points in its March letter.

“Now, more than three months after receiving the committee’s request letter, EPA has produced to the committee only publicly available documents posted on the EPA docket with one exception,” the panel wrote in its Wednesday letter, describing one internal, highly redacted document the EPA provided.

The agency later told the committee that it would withhold some documents.

“Your requests seek internal EPA documents related to an ongoing regulatory action,” EPA Associate Administrator Laura Vaught wrote last month in a letter to the committee. “As you know ... the ongoing nature of this action raises particular concerns regarding the confidentiality and independence of agency deliberations.”

But the lawmakers didn’t buy it.

“The deliberative process privilege, a common law privilege, has no applicability with respect to Congress and certainly not to EPA’s responses to the committee’s requests for documents,” the committee wrote.

Lawmakers asked that the EPA provide the materials by July 23.

“Should EPA fail either to produce the documents or provide a suitable log by July 23, 2014, this committee will seek to compel their production,” the letter said.