Some time ago I had an epiphany about climate change. I came to realize it's not so much that conservatives don't buy into it, it's that they don't trust a word out of the mouth of the Obama Administration's lawless, monster of an Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency has thoroughly earned their distrust.
That came home to me again Friday in a Wall Street Journal story, "The EPA's Secret Staff," in which a WSJ reporter revealed the EPA's secretly worked with environmental lobbyists to craft its Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gases. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute obtained government emails that blow the whole scam wide open.
According to the Journal, "The emails show this secret alliance designed a standard that would be impossible or economically ruinous for existing coal plants to meet -- in order to force their closure."
This is serious business, and frankly, further proof the states and businesses suing the Obama Administration's anticarbon Clean Power Plan are going down the right path.
The newspaper claims they have enough evidence to go after a preliminary injunction.
As it happens, the New York Times dropped the first hint of wrongdoing in this affair more than a year ago. The Times reported that in 2014 three environmentalists with roots at the Natural Resources Defense Council -- Dan Lashof, David Doniger and David Hawkins -- drafted a 'blueprint' that 'influenced' the greenhouse gas rules.
"That wasn’t the half of it," says the WSJ.
The emails show Lashof, Doniger, Hawkins and other environmentalists essentially wrote the rule.
"Their inside man was Michael Goo, who worked at the NRDC before becoming the EPA’s associate administrator for the Office of Policy," says the Journal. "The emails show intense 2011 communications between Mr. Goo and high-level officials at the NRDC, the Sierra Club and the Clean Air Task Force. Mr. Goo used a private Yahoo email account to send multiple drafts of his options memo to these outside groups, which returned them with draft instructions."
Apparently, Goo was a kind of chief of espionage. He kept the outsiders apprised of internal EPA deliberations. In one email on May 11, 2011, Conrad Schneider, an official at the Clean Air Task Force asked Goo to send him the “latest unit efficiency concept” the agency is debating.
Goo, meanwhile, was briefing outside groups like the Sierra Club on his discussions with then-EPA chief Lisa Jackson. "The collaboration on standards and algorithms is so detailed that at one point Mr. Schneider chides Mr. Goo that he needs to keep his 'units straight' since he is confusing concepts," says the Journal.
The big question is, do these emails -- and printed out, there are a stack of them -- violate the Administrative Procedures Act, which governs the writing of regulations and takes a dim view of outside, special-interest organizations secretly drafting government rules?
The WSJ claims they might also violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act that requires federal officials to interact with private entities in a prescribed and open manner.
Let's not forget, the EPA is already facing a legal challenge for violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act by secretly working with environmentalists on its pre-emptive veto of Alaska’s Pebble Mine.
Here's what Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA assistant administrator in the Bush Administration, had to say. “I’ve been involved with EPA regulations for more than 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before. It is remarkable that a senior official would use a private email account to evade federal law and secretly give an outside group a seat at the table when regulations are being developed.”
The EPA emails are extensive and egregious.
When the Journal asked the Sierra Club to respond, its spokesman declined. Goo has since left the EPA and "a spokesman for (Goo) dismissed our questions as 'a red herring' raised by 'a professional climate skeptic.'"
The EPA pooh-poohed the story. The “Clean Power Plan was developed through an extensive public outreach process,” they said, "with hundreds of stakeholders at public hearings. For an action that generated 4.3 million public comments, to imply that one group or person had any undue influence on the Clean Power Plan’s development is ridiculous and absurd.”
To hear the EPA tell it, Goo shared his work product with all those commenters.
The WSJ gives credit for exposing the emails to Chris Horner, an attorney for the Energy & Environment Legal Institute. Horner pursued the FOIA requests as relentlessly as Javert pursued Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."
"That job has taken longer than it should have," writes the Journal, "because Mr. Goo withheld his private Yahoo emails from the EPA for years, despite the law’s clear intent that official communications be subject to FOIA."
It's a good time here to pause and be grateful that Florida is part of a multi-state bipartisan lawsuit against the EPA attempt to seize regulatory control over large categories of state waters, called the Waters of the United States rule. Look at all that's happened. Look at what's happened here with the Clean Power Plan. Is it any wonder conservatives are calling for the breakup of this behemoth federal bureaucracy that does what it pleases and makes up the rules as it goes?
Incidentally, there is little defense of the EPA among the dozens of comments on this Wall Street Journal story. Here are a few examples:
"So; now that the 'science' has been proven to be COMPLETELY gamed we find that hasn't stopped the chicken littles from stopping the sky from falling. Libidiots, the lot of them!" -- Kevin Roeder
"I hope coal, rail and utility companies and their largest shareholders are dusting off their attorneys to crank out multi-billion dollar lawsuits that attempt to recoup losses caused by this corruption. Too bad those that lost jobs, retirements, homes and nest eggs don't have such options. -- John Klimchak
"I hope Trump breaks another taboo and promises to prosecute these apparatchiks from prior administration...." -- John Kerrison
The last comment is particularly telling. I think we may have a clue to the genesis of the frustration among many Americans that produced the Donald Trump Phenomenon of 2015.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith