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Dem senators call for probe into EPA officials over memo language

Dem senators call for probe into EPA officials over memo language
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Two Democratic senators are calling for another probe into the head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air office after comments from an old lobbying client were incorporated verbatim in an EPA memo.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (D-Del.) and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (D-R.I.) have requested an investigation of EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum and his deputy chief David Harlow, both former lobbyists for Hunton Andrews Kurth.

Both men signed a pledge to recuse themselves from dealing with former clients, but Whitehouse and Carper think those pledges may have been violated.

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Clients at Hunton included the Air Permitting Forum, a coalition based at the firm that may include former clients of Wehrum and Harlow. Though the men have recused themselves from clients, they do not appear to have recused themselves from dealing with the forum.

“These groups are just another avenue for industry to surreptitiously exert its influence over EPA,” the senators wrote in a release. “Clearly there is a systemic issue at the EPA Office of Air and Radiation. There appears to be no end to the sham associations housed at Bill Wehrum and David Harlow’s former law firm that now have a direct line to power.”

That is apparent, they argue, because of a 2017 EPA memo that was issued just months after then-Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Democratic lawmaker calls for DOJ investigation of entire Trump administration MORE called for input on what EPA regulations should be repealed.

The Air Permitting Forum responded to that call, arguing that companies should only be held responsible for pollution for which they are the predominant cause.

Identical text was used just a few months later in a memo that reversed the EPA’s position in litigation against DTE Energy Company, one of Harlow’s clients while employed at Hunton.

Wehrum was similarly accused of borrowing language from industry when he worked at the EPA under the George W. Bush administration.

EPA brushed off Whitehouse and Carper’s continued calls for investigation.

“Bill Wehrum and David Harlow are not aware of billing any hours to Air Permitting Forum. The Air Permitting Forum is not a former client of either Mr. Wehrum or Mr. Harlow.  Neither Mr. Wehrum nor Mr. Harlow were involved in the development of the Air Permitting Forum’s May 15th comments,” an EPA spokesman said in a statement. “Since Mr. Wehrum and Mr. Harlow started at EPA they have both been recused from all particular matters where DTE is a party.”

In March, the senators, alongside House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.), called for an investigation into whether the two men were using their positions at EPA to benefit DTE. They have not heard back from the EPA’s Office of Inspector General.

House Democrats made a similar request in April.

A spokesman for the Office of Inspector General said they are carefully reviewing the requests.