The Natural Resources Defense Council is swinging back as a Senate Republican continues to accuse the group of behind-the-scenes "collusion" with the Obama administration.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) renewed his criticisms this week of what he's dubbed a "beyond cozy" relationship between the environmental group and U.S. EPA. He's launched an investigation into the organization's influence in crafting an EPA rule to curb power plants' greenhouse gas emissions and yesterday released new documents that he says show NRDC suggesting a "one-size-fits-all" regulatory plan that undercuts states.
But "colluding" to Vitter is "advocacy" to the NRDC, according to David Goldston, director of the environmental group's government affairs program.
"In the investigative letter and his press releases, Senator Vitter has thrown around the word 'colluding' to describe the most innocent, everyday interactions between EPA and NRDC," Goldston wrote in a blog post yesterday responding to Vitter's accusations.
"No standard advocacy activity seems legitimate in his eyes -- every meeting and call is suspect -- at least if you disagree with policy positions espoused by Senator Vitter," Goldston added. "He hasn't complained about the meetings or communications EPA has had with corporations or their advocates on these very same issues."
The sparring stems from a July New York Times report describing how the Obama administration used a proposal drafted by NRDC climate change experts as a blueprint for its controversial rule to curb power plant emissions. Vitter and other critics of EPA's plans to slash emissions from utilities have berated the agency for taking cues from the green group.
In Vitter's most recent attack, he alleged that NRDC's climate director had improperly urged EPA officials to propose or adopt federal plans for implementing rules to curb greenhouse gases from power plants during the time when states are allowed to submit their own implementation plans. That, the Louisiana Republican said, demonstrates "a coordinated plan to undermine the states' input in developing and implementing the devastating carbon rule" (Greenwire, Dec. 10).
According to Goldston, "EPA actually has not heeded NRDC's advice on this matter." He said NRDC considers Vitter's entire investigation "an illegitimate fishing expedition."
The emails released yesterday show ongoing communication between NRDC and EPA on climate change, "and they show EPA responding to complaints that it isn't being sufficiently responsive," Goldston added.
According to one of the documents released yesterday, EPA air attorney Joe Goffman sent an email in May to NRDC's climate policy director, David Doniger, with the subject line, "have we ever not briefed you." Goffman went on to say, "And, for that matter, the range of critical stakeholders, before the roll-out of a major, or even medium-sized rule?"
EPA has denied that NRDC had outsized sway over the rule, insisting that the proposal took into account advice from stakeholders like states, power companies, labor groups and tribes.
Goldston said EPA "was also talking to utilities and other businesses -- as it should -- but no one is investigating them." He noted that "NRDC is in the business of pushing action on climate change," and while EPA was interested in hearing and discussing the group's ideas, "it made its own decisions and kept its own counsel. It doesn't take an investigation to know that."
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