GOP: Climate rule came from improper green input

GOP: Climate rule came from improper green input
© Greg Nash

The Obama administration improperly colluded with environmental advocates to write its landmark climate rule for power plants, Senate Republicans say.

In a 73-page report released Tuesday, the Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said environmental regulators have been colluding for five years with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other green groups, which resulted in the regulation President Obama announced Monday.

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While the allegations are from Republicans are not new, the committee said its report contains new details, based largely on communications the agency made with greens.

It shows that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) improperly colluded with greens, ignored other interested parties and, as a result, cut corners and wrote a rule with poor legal backing that will not stand in court, the GOP said.

“The report exposes how the Obama administration's collusion with outside environmental groups through the use of sue-and-settle tactics has cornered out public input in the rulemaking process,” Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOn The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' MORE (R-Okla.), the panel’s chairman and a frequent and outspoken critic of the EPA under Obama, said in a statement.

“This oversight report discloses for the first time unredacted communications between EPA and NRDC, putting the final nail in the coffin of President Obama’s broken campaign promise for a new era of government transparency,” he said.

The report alleges that top EPA officials went out of their way to meet with greens and give them unfettered access, even on weekends and in person.

The EPA also skewed the timing of its regulations to avoid bad consequences for the 2012 and 2014 elections, Republicans alleged.

The Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee started investigating the EPA’s dealings with greens last year, after a New York Times report said the NRDC largely wrote the climate rule for power plants.

The agency and the NRDC both fought back against the findings of Tuesday’s report.

“There is simply zero merit to the idea that one group had any undue influence on the proposal's development,” said EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison.

“This is a flawed narrative driven by cherry picked and isolated communications that in no way reflect the full breadth and depth of the unprecedented outreach EPA engaged in to formulate and develop the Clean Power Plan,” she said.

Harrison said the rule underwent the most extensive engagement process in the EPA’s history, and the agency considered input over two years from more than 4 million comments and stakeholders all over the country.

Ed Chen, spokesman for NRDC, said the Republicans are trying to silence environmentalists.

“This is another attempt to stop us from standing up for clean air, safe water and healthy communities — and strong action to combat climate change,” Chen said.

“Sen. Inhofe and his allies are trying to protect the big polluters that bankroll their campaigns and are trying to intimidate those who would fight for the environment,” he said. “We are doing nothing more than petitioning our government — a constitutionally protected right.”

Last year, EPA head Gina McCarthy mocked the Times report in an agency-wide memo, calling the report “preposterous.”

The NRDC said the allegations only show that it is effectively advocating for strong environmental policies. It accused Republicans of trying to silence its legitimate government advocacy.

The Senate committee said its investigation into greens’ influence in EPA rules is ongoing, and it may have further reports in the future.

— Updated at 1:40 p.m.