Vitter: Emails show green collusion with EPA on climate rule

Sen. David VitterDavid VitterThe Senate 'ethics' committee is a black hole where allegations die Questions loom over Franken ethics probe You're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat MORE (R-La.) released a set of emails Tuesday that he said show that a green group had inappropriate influence over President Obama’s proposed climate rule for power plants.

The emails are part of an investigation Vitter and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) are conducting on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) role in crafting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal.

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“Even though both sides have vehemently denied it, these discoveries clearly demonstrate the EPA and NRDC’s beyond-cozy relationship and force the question — Who is working for whom,” Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

The latest emails, Vitter said, show a “very close working relationship” between the agency and the group on the rule since 2011, two years before EPA said it started gathering input on the carbon proposal.

NRDC and other green groups sued the EPA in 2010 to force it to develop a power plant rule. The EPA settled in 2011 and agreed to propose the regulation.

The emails show what Vitter characterized as “congratulatory” messages between officials at the EPA and NRDC after the settlement. “This success is yours as much as mine,” wrote Gina McCarthy, who at the time led the EPA’s air pollution work, and now is the agency’s head.

The groups have been under scrutiny since July, when the New York Times reported that the agency borrowed heavily from an NRDC proposal for its rule.

Responding to the controversy, top EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds wrote a blog post last week is “committed to broad outreach and engagement,” and gives no special treatment to any stakeholders with which it communicates on rules.

“Despite the full breadth and depth of the unprecedented outreach EPA engaged in to formulate and develop the Clean Power Plan proposal, some continue to push a flawed, cherry-picked, narrative that simply ignores the well-documented and widely reported and recognized sweep and range of the agency’s engagement with the public, states and stakeholders over the past 14 months,” Reynolds wrote.

He said the agency met with more than 300 stakeholders before releasing the proposed rule in June.