EPA urges judges to reject charges of lobbyists’ influence

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016

U.S. EPA doesn’t think a conservative legal group should be allowed to file documents in federal court alleging that lobbyists improperly helped write the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday that EPA’s controversial greenhouse gas rule for power plants should be sent back to the drawing board because the agency crafted provisions of the plan through “backdoor dealings” with environmental lobbyists (E&ENews PM, Feb. 22).

As part of a massive lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan, the legal group asked the judges for permission to file documents separately from the other challengers, saying “it has become clear that other petitioners do not, for various reasons, support the arguments being raised” and “may indeed feel compelled to oppose” the argument “regarding the requirement to docket ex parte contacts between outside groups and a rule-making agency.”

EPA urged the court today to reject that request.

“EELI has not justified why it, alone among all the petitioners and intervenor-petitioners in this action, should be allowed to file an additional brief to advance a unique argument (apparently one that is not joined in by any other party),” EPA’s attorneys told the judges today.

“The fact that EELI was apparently unable to convince other parties to devote space to its unique issue in either petitioners’ or intervenor-petitioners’ briefing simply suggests that this issue is, in the view of most parties on that side of the case, one of lower priority than the issues that were briefed,” the administration said. EPA’s lawyers also questioned whether the group has sufficient standing in the case, meaning it could show that its members would be harmed by the rule.

Central to EELI’s argument are allegations that former EPA Senior Policy Adviser Michael Goo used both his official and personal email accounts to share planning documents and drafts of rule provisions with staffers at the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Clean Air Task Force. Goo was NRDC’s climate legislative director before working at EPA during the Obama administration.

Christopher Hessler, founding partner at AJW Inc., where Goo is now a partner, said today, “There are legitimate concerns being raised by responsible business interests regarding the Clean Power Plan. However, an email exchange that took place between Michael Goo and an environmentalist in 2011 — three years prior to the 2014 proposal of the Clean Power Plan — isn’t one of them.”

Hessler added, “This is a red herring that originates with a professional climate skeptic whose body of work reveals an impressive disregard for facts or science. I would hope that anyone paying attention to this would look carefully at the law and facts relating to how the Clean Power Plan was actually developed — with input from an unprecedented range of stakeholders — before considering the views of a fringe group of climate dead-enders.”

Click here to read EPA’s motion to the court.