By Rick Manning — The Environmental Protection Agency has been a lightning rod for controversy during the Obama Administration as they have pushed the applications of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to their limits in seeking to control all land use across the nation.
One area that hasn’t received as much scrutiny, but reeks of old-style influence peddler politics is the Agency’s escalation of sue and settle cases to change the law through federal court decree operating hand in hand with radical environmentalist groups that are willing participants in the scam.
Numerous media reports have focused upon the revolving door between the EPA and various environmentalist groups with hundreds officials reportedly moving back and forth between environmental agencies and those that lobby them. The latest is Alfredo Armendariz, who resigned after a two year old video emerged of him explaining to environmental groups that the EPA’s enforcement policies compared favorably with those of the Roman Empire where they would crucify someone in a newly conquered town to create the necessary fear in the citizenry.
Now Armendariz is working with the Sierra Club on their anti-coal campaign, in just one more example of the cozy relationship between the advocacy groups and the government that they lobby.
And it is these very relationships that are at the heart of the sue and settle controversy enveloping the Obama Administration. Here is how it works:
An organization sues the EPA demanding that they apply the law in a new, expanded way that increases the agency’s jurisdiction. The EPA, rather than defending the actual law, enters into a contractual relationship known as a consent decree with the party who filed the original lawsuit. A judge signs the consent decree without review, since the two disputing parties are in “agreement.” And the EPA suddenly has expanded powers to wield its enforcement cudgel against people and job creators who were previously outside their grasp.
Shockingly, U.S. taxpayers are then required, under federal law, to pay off the attorneys of the organization which engaged in this power grab scam.
Americans for Limited Government filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in May, 2012 (amended on June 14) to get to the bottom of one such sue and settle created regulation dealing with coal-ash.
The request simply asks for all communications between the EPA’s Offices, which entered into the legal agreement, and the eleven groups which sued the Agency including the Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Change Network and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Not surprisingly, the EPA is stonewalling the request demanding that the costs of compiling the data be paid for by Americans for Limited Government in spite of the fact that the group has followed the exact procedures under the law which dictate that the information should be provided free of charge. Similar Americans for Limited Government FOIA requests have been delivered without fee by more than a dozen other federal government departments and agencies. Yet, the EPA objects.
Ironically, the EPA’s National Freedom of Information Act Officer, Larry Gottesman testified before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee in 2010 stating, “EPA is committed to the letter and spirit of the Administration’s Open Government and Transparency goals.”
Apparently, that commitment does not extend to releasing information that promises to prove embarrassing to Obama and his hand in glove environmentalist advocacy group campaign to expand the EPA’s power through the dubious sue and settle process.
Gottesman’s attempts to stop the release of the communications between those who sued the EPA and the Agency which is supposed to defend the law, raises the following questions:
Is the National FOIA officer being coerced by Obama political appointees to stop the release of damaging information until after the November election?
What emails and other communications are so damaging that this career official would risk his reputation to keep them out of the public eye?
What communications have occurred related to the stonewalling of the original standard FOIA request?
The irony should not be lost that while the EPA lectures the rest of America on clean air, their own legal shenanigans are shrouded by a thick stench of obstructionism.
It’s time for America to know if the EPA is colluding with environmental radicals to manipulate the legal system with a promise that the radicals will get paid for their efforts through taxpayer funds.
It’s time for the EPA to come clean by releasing the communications between itself and the eleven organizations whose lawsuit led to the new proposed coal-ash regulations.
And it’s time for the EPA to disinfect their festering reputation as nothing more than a radical environmental advocacy organization with draconian enforcement powers rather than an even handed government agency.
Rick Manning is the communications director of Americans for Limited Government