Clean Power Plan reset sought after emails show collaboration bewteen EPA, greens

epa sierraA pro-energy advocacy group is seeking to incinerate the Clean Power Plan after releasing more emails showing a key Environmental Protection Agency official collaborating behind the scenes with leading environmental activists.

In a 20-page report released Monday, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute chronicles another round of communications between environmentalists and Michael Goo, former EPA Office of Policy associate administrator, who used a private email account to discuss options on regulating coal-fired power plants.

“The EPA taking direction from outside parties demonstrated a closed mind and a process that was not transparent and not part of the official record. This is against the law,” said David Schnare, general counsel for the institute. “The law should be returned to the EPA for proper consideration.”

The institute submitted a brief Friday requesting permission from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to file a supplemental brief arguing that the Clean Power Plan “needs to be sent back to the EPA for an honest restart” in light of the disclosures.

The agency is already under fire for letting environmental advocacy groups play roles in drafting the sweeping rule without disclosing their involvement.

“Using his private email, rather than his official EPA email, Mr. Goo secretly shared these draft options with lobbyists and high-level staffers at the Sierra Club and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) who in turn, like Natural Resources Defense Council staff, told him how to alter the policy that was ultimately implemented in the Rule,” E&E said in the report.

The emails, obtained by E&E Legal, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a law student through Freedom of Information Act requests, lay out “for the first time a pattern of ex parte communications by EPA officials,” E&E Legal said in a statement.

“This report affirms in stark and disturbing detail that the necessary, clear line between special interests and government does not exist at EPA,” E&E report author Chris Horner said in a statement.

EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said Monday that the agency, which is mired in litigation over the rule, would not comment on the report.

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Clean Power Plan from taking effect two weeks ago pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by two dozen states challenging the rule’s legality.

A cornerstone of the Obama administration’s climate change agenda, the plan is aimed at reducing by 32 percent emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2020, a regulatory goal that critics say would increase electricity costs by forcing the closure of most plants.

Since the Supreme Court’s Feb. 9 stay, 18 states have suspended their plans for complying with the rule while 20 are moving toward compliance and nine are still debating how to proceed, according to a Monday report in E&E Publishing.

The latest report centers on Mr. Goo, a former attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council who in 2011 headed the working group tasked with preparing the initial memo on regulating coal-fired plants. In emails from his private Yahoo server, he shared drafts and discussed options with a Sierra Club lobbyist and top Clean Air Task Force official.

The EPA failed to disclose the emails in its Notice of Public Rulemaking on the Clean Power Plan, even though Mr. Goo turned over the communications before leaving to take a position with the Energy Department in 2013, according to the report.

David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, made no apologies for the organization’s advocacy on behalf of reduced emissions in a Monday statement.

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