EPA chief McCarthy mocks The New York Times in staff memo

A New York Times article that credits a green group for President Obama’s signature climate change rule is “preposterous,” Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy wrote in an internal email obtained by The Hill.

In the memo, McCarthy praised EPA staff for securing a "dozen major victories in the Supreme Court” while crafting the "historic" carbon pollution limits for existing power plants.

"Unless you ask the New York Times," McCarthy quipped.

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"According to an article from Monday, you just cut and pasted a particular [non-governmental organization’s] proposal and called it a day. If you're laughing right now, it's because you know just how preposterous that is.”

The Times published an article Monday that said the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provided the blueprint used by the EPA for the rule, which mandates that states cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

According to the report, the NRDC "heavily influenced the president's proposal."

But McCarthy rebuts that in the memo, telling EPA staff they were the ones who deserve credit for crafting the centerpiece regulation of Obama’s climate change agenda.

"You handled the flood of information, sifted and sorted, and applied our understanding of the Clean Air Act and our own innovative analysis," McCarthy wrote.

"You crafted a proposal that ensures states and utilities have the flexibility they need to reduce carbon pollution in a practical and affordable way. You gave up evenings, weekends and time with your families to make sure we got this right, and you have the empty takeout boxes and coffee cups to prove it," she adds.

In a response to the Times article, the NRDC called it a "very nice" piece but said "success has many parents” and that they were among "hundreds" of people who contributed. 

The proposal did echo the NRDC plan and others in a few ways, including the flexibility afforded states and specific standards per state based its the energy landscape. However, EPA's proposal did differ from NRDC on the key reduction target of 30 percent by 2030 where the green group had pushed for 40 percent.

McCarthy has mounted an aggressive defense of the controversial carbon rules, which have come under fire from Republicans, pro-fossil fuel Democrats and a number of states.

The EPA's air and radiation chief in a blog post this week defended the agency's process for drafting the 625-page emissions proposal, stating "literally thousands of thoughtful stakeholders" provided input.

Legal challenges to the standards have already been pursued, and it’s likely that industry groups will fight the regulations in court for years to come.

Republicans in Congress are trying to stop the carbon rules before they ever take effect.

House Republicans this week attached measures to an appropriations bill that would block the carbon rules, setting up a showdown with Senate Democrats, who are nearly certain to reject the provisions.