The EPA: an agency of lobbyists

I don’t wish to downplay the hard work of the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute, but learning that the Environmental Protection Agency is essentially staffed and run by its own lobbyists is not surprising.  It’s good to have it all documented in a concise report, entitled “Improper Collusion Between Environmental Pressure Groups and the Environmental Protect Agency, As Revealed by Freedom of Information Act Requests,” but the ultimate conclusion is something everyone familiar with the EPA knows, the worst-kept open secret in Washington.  Outside of the Department of Education, it’s hard to think of a better example of special interests running a pet government agency designed expressly to cater to them.

If the E&ELI doesn’t mind a bit of advice, I’d come up with a catchier, more media-friendly title for the final report (the current release is billed as an interim version.)  Maybe something like “Sustainable Revolving Doors” or “One Agency, Under Lobbyists, Indivisible.”

Over the span of several years, the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute – whose mission statement is to “address and correct onerous federal and state governmental actions that negatively impact energy and the environment” – used Freedom of Information Act requests to examine “the relationship between the Obama Administration’s EPA and various special interest groups.”  In other words, they got their hands on a big pile of emails, and it painted a stark picture of how the EPA views itself, and how it maintains very cozy relations with environmentalist groups, whose members pass through revolving doors into the agency as easily as mainstream-media stars find jobs in a Democrat White House.

The Obama EPA claims to be pursuing a common-sense agenda, but its own emails reveal a clear understanding, internally and with its allies, that its agenda is ideological and that it is in fact pursuing candidate Obama’s vow to ‘bankrupt’ coal,” the report alleges.  “Emails prove this agenda is assisted both in its big picture and in detail by pressure groups from which EPA obtained many senior staff. The public shift to more moderate positions was purely rhetorical, in response to political pressures.”

None of this matches up very well with President Obama’s loud (and risible) promises to run an Administration free of special interest and lobbyist influence.  In practice, what this means is that you’re not supposed to refer to the rich and well-connected groups and individuals who have a Democrat president’s ear as “special interests” or “lobbyists.”  Only bad interests are “special” and selfish.  Why, those nice environmental groups just want to save the Earth!  What could be more honest, selfless, and pure?

The truth of how EPA operates also is starkly contrary to Mr. Obama???s promises of limiting the influence of special interests, the revolving door, and transparency. Contrary to candidate Obama???s promise to run the ???most transparent administration in history,??? free of conflicts of interest, documents reveal that various environmentalist pressure groups with extreme agendas have unprecedented access to and influence upon their former colleagues and other ideological allies who are now EPA officials. EPA serves as an extension of these groups and neither EPA nor the groups recognize any distinction between them.

Further, certain officials have glaring appearances of conflicts yet were rushed into place to impose an agenda they had long advocated as outside activists, precisely opposite of the behavior called for by conflicts policy, contrary to Executive Order 12674.

The hypocrisy, while only a compounding factor, is startling. The campaign-style rhetoric continued even as the coordination became unprecedented. President Obama boasted, for example, ???On my first day in office, we closed the revolving door between lobbying firms and the government so that no one in my administration would make decisions based on the interests of former or future employers.??? The truth, as this report documents, is quite different.

You can say that again.  What follows is a couple hundred pages of documentation showing that, contrary to the Administration’s public assurances that it wasn’t waging a “War on Coal,” the EPA and its beloved green lobbyists most certainly thought they were fighting such a war.  For example, even as the White House was denying it declared a War on Coal, EPA Administration Gina McCarthy was describing one of her top contacts at the Sierra Club as their “no coal person,” in charge of an “anti-coal campaign” viewed quite favorably by the Agency.  The relationship between lobbyist and government agency was so tight then when No Coal Guy went on vacation, his associates at the Sierra Club “would plead with EPA friends for updates, on the grounds that his absence left them feeling out of EPA’s loop.”

Then you’ve got people like Al Armendariz, an EPA regional administrator “who, in the words of his EPA colleagues, departed for Sierra Club to ‘run their anti-coal campaign,’ in the very region where he until then ran EPA’s anti-coal campaign, with the very same groups he had been working with.”  Change your tie clip and ID badge, and presto! – you go from being a government official lobbied by green groups to a green activist lobbying the people who were working across the hall from you at EPA headquarters last month.

Green groups had no trouble injecting the work product of their study groups into the government’s bloodstream, and vice versa – their work was shared so freely that it was hard to tell where government ended and lobbying began.  In one particularly egregious case pertaining to carbon-dioxide regulation, the EPA essentially helped environmentalist groups win a lawsuit against itself, with the ultimate goal of increasing the agency’s regulatory purview.

That’s no surprise, given the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute’s assessment that EPA officials ” lack significant experience in the private sector, in labor union leadership, or even as an elected official. All are either career bureaucrats or former green group activists, and they coordinate with their former colleagues from their new government jobs in an unprecedented fashion.”

Naturally, the EPA took steps to keep this level of lobbyist coordination under wraps.  There’s a reason it took years for the E&ELI to put its report together.  In one case, after clubbing the Environmental Protection Agency with FOIA requests, they got two different redacted copies of a message… with different information redacted in each, making it possible to put the whole message together by comparing the supplied copies.  Whoopsie!  And of course there’s quite a bit of material in the report concerning former EPA Administration Lisa Jackson’s amazing effort to circumvent transparency laws by inventing a male alias for herself, “Richard Windsor,” and using private email accounts to conduct government business.

Everything you’d expect is here: an addiction to “global warming” junk science that has cost the American taxpayer billions, collusion with lobbyists on the issuance of rules and permits, team-ups between federal environmental officials and green activists to pressure state governments, political activism by outside groups that dovetailed extremely well with the Administration’s agenda, and enthusiastic efforts to keep congressional oversight from ruining everyone’s fun.  There’s not much doubt that the EPA and Big Green see themselves as comrades-in-arms, and it’s highly likely that you, dear reader, are among those they view as enemies.

Surely examples of such uncomfortably close working relationships between Big Government and lobbyists can be found in many agencies, under Administrations from both parties, across the decades.  Most such relationships probably aren’t quite as lively as the symbiosis between EPA and its beloved special interests, and it’s a safe bet none of them cost the American taxpayer quite as much in terms of lost liberty, economic damage, and overhead costs.  The important point to remember is that everyone mentioned in the E&ELI report would probably look you in the eye and swear they work the most transparent, special-interest-free, selfless Administration ever.  Or they petition it.  Or both.  One man’s team of outside experts is another man’s lobbying firm.  It’s a feature of Big Government that argues very strongly in favor of not having Big Government, but instead the public gets manipulated into thinking every new Administration will be different, and none of its special friends will be those evil, money-devouring “lobbyists.”





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