GOP launches probe of 'improper influence' on EPA climate rule

Republicans are investigating what they call "improper influence" from a national green group on the Obama administration's signature Environmental Protection Agency climate change regulation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, are demanding the EPA and the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) hand over documents on the organization's involvement in drafting the proposed carbon pollution rules.

The investigation is based on a New York Times report that said the NRDC provided the blueprint used for the rules, and "heavily influenced the president's proposal."

While the EPA has repeatedly slammed the Times piece, defending its proposal and employees it says sifted through thousands of comments and held countless meetings, Republicans remain unconvinced.

“It appears that NRDC’s unprecedented access to high-level EPA officials allowed it to influence EPA policy decisions and achieve its own private agenda. Such collusive activities provide the NRDC, and their financial backers, with an inappropriate opportunity to wield the broad powers of the executive branch,” the lawmakers wrote to the EPA and the NRDC.

“The fact that an ideological and partisan group drafted a rule that places a tremendous cost on everyday Americans through increased electricity prices is harmful and outrageous. … Accordingly, these practices must cease immediately," the letters state.

The influence, the missives say, doesn't stop there.

According to documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee, the NRDC also met with EPA staff about the "pre-emptive veto of the proposed Pebble Mine" in 2010.

The EPA recently called for restricting the construction of the proposed copper mine near Bristol Bay, Alaska, in order to protect the salmon population.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaCalifornia Hispanics, even Republicans, are primed to make history House rejects effort to condemn lawmaker for demanding 'Dreamer' arrests Hispanic Dems seek vote to condemn GOP lawmaker for demanding arrests of 'Dreamers' MORE (R-Calif.) and Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterTrump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters MORE (R-La.) are requesting the EPA and the NRDC hand over documents and communications surrounding the carbon pollution rule on existing power plants from 2009 to the present.

They are also requesting all communications between the EPA and the NRDC on the Pebble Mine from 2009 to the present.

The EPA said it plans to review the request and will respond.

Shortly after the Times published its article on the NRDC's involvement, Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Obama EPA chief: Trump regulation rollbacks won't hold up legally MORE sent a memo to EPA staff mocking the publication and calling the assertions "preposterous."

"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," McCarthy said in the memo.

The NRDC shot back at the probe claiming the Republican lawmakers are simply "uninterested" in debating policy.

“Sen. Vitter, Rep. Issa and their colleagues are acting as if fighting for public health were an un-American activity," said Ed Chen, of NRDC. "Democratic and Republican presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower have worked to curb pollution and protect our natural resources."

While the agency's proposal echoes the NRDC plan pitched in 2010 on the flexibility afforded to states to meet the reduction targets, it does differ on the target of 30 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2030.

The EPA is working to finalize the rules by next summer.