Today, after a long-delayed, nearly 500-page document production from EPA last week, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) updated its report detailing the degree to which EPA worked with outside special interest groups such as the Sierra Club, Clean Air Task Force and NRDC to craft its global warming rules. This report includes new revelations about senior EPA officials’ work on what one called an “offline channel” with reporters, industry lobbyists and green groups on numerous EPA rules with the intention to circumvent federal record keeping and transparency laws. These are included in an appendix to the report. Even Democratic congressional aides sought to use the “offline” account to coordinate on EPA issues.
As regards EPA’s greenhouse gas rules, one of which faces a major challenge next Tuesday before the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, these emails show how EPA, rather than using its own experts to craft a rule in the public interest, chose to allow outside groups to draft its core foundations. Outside activists — who this report shows one senior EPA official, a political appointee, even agreed to raise money for in what would be a thoroughly unethical use of appointed office — drafted and provided their proposed key elements of the plan, and other comments to EPA officials, on the officials’ private email accounts. The report details the correspondence and how those outside special interest groups were allowed to produce EPA’s GHG “Options memo”.
Worse, because the comments and drafts of outside special interest groups were not incorporated into the comments docket or the Federal Register, the public never knew about what EPA was up to or who authored the proposed rule, and was deprived of its opportunity to meaningfully comment on EPA’s backdoor dealings. This makes EPA’s rule illegal. A new video also released by E&E Legal at the same time details much of this evidence, which the D.C. Circuit ruled it will not consider in determining whether the rules will survive before last week’s document dump.
Key emails documented in the updated report show that EPA lawyer Michael Goo, who was also assigned the responsibility of drafting of EPA’s “Options memo”, acknowledged to the industry lobbyist for the “Clean Energy Group” that his Yahoo account was an “offline channel” to correspond, one obviously kept outside of EPA’s system. Then-Administrator Lisa Jackson called the CEG EPA’s “industry validator” for its global warming rules in emails obtained previously by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Newly discovered documents show further collusion between the Clean Air Task Force and Goo including confirmation that Goo and CATF’s Conrad Schneider discussed, in detail, how Goo could speak to CATF’s foundation donors to encourage financial support. This is the same group to which he outsourced EPA rule-drafting responsibilities. Such efforts to encourage donations for a private group crosses a new ethical line for a Federal employee. Other Yahoo email shows Goo was personally close with such donor-group officers, who corresponded on his “offline” account to plan how he might use his new position at the Department of Energy to advance shared goals.
The updated report details how major-outlet environmental reporters, including those writing “Cool kids” and other fawning pieces about Goo used Goo’s Yahoo account to correspond on EPA-related matters, presumably keeping their correspondence outside of the legally required systems. This represents journalists remarkably and deliberately skirting a law, FOIA, that reporters otherwise purport to hold as sacred. One Politico reporter took the circumvention so far as to text Goo’s cell phone to tell him to check his Yahoo account.
Other emails show a former senior Harry Reid staffer turned lobbyist — and, now, Goo’s employer — used Goo’s Yahoo account to suggest that Goo use his new position at the Department of Energy in a way that would help the lobbyist’s work on the very EPA rule before the D.C. Circuit on Tuesday. Goo responded enthusiastically.
The update also shows how Goo worked with Sierra Club’s John Coequyt by text message on the fracking issue even while EPA and the Sierra Club were in litigation against each other on the same matter. Goo suggested to Coeyqut a strategy to get around OMB’s objections to regulating fracking, telling Coeyqut that Goo would need to “talk sense into OMB dickheads” who did not share the pair’s zeal for EPA regulation of the process in a certain rule.
The report concludes that the next administration must make rounding up the complete public record in the face of such widespread abuses is an imperative, however unlikely it is that each of the candidates would prioritize correcting abuses found on “offline emails”.
“We hope this report will show the public what sort of tricks EPA engages in when they think no one is watching,” said Craig Richardson, Executive Director of E&E Legal. “We also have new perspective on congressional opposition to oversight of these violations, and media reluctance to cover them.”
Added E&E General Counsel, David Schnare: “EPA apparently sees no distinction between its public interest function and the special interests that lobby it. The courts need to take a hard look at this collusive behavior, and carefully examine the legal implications of EPA drafting rules in this fashion.”