U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), along with Ranking Member David Vitter (R-La.) and Congressman James Lankford (R-OK-5) today sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bob Perciasepe to express concerns for the abuse of statutory discretion under the Clean Air Act to override states' responsibilities in rulemaking and to request more transparency in the agency's policymaking process.
In the letter, the Members said, "Throughout the current Administration, your agency has regularly brokered settlement agreements to carry out specific regulatory activities after being sued by environmental groups. 'Sue and Settle' is a hallmark of the Obama Administration's environmental policymaking across agencies, with EPA being the most egregious example. These exclusively negotiated deals circumvent transparency, exclude impacted parties and have far reaching economic consequences."
"Despite numerous efforts by the state of Oklahoma, the EPA seems to have abandoned their previous policy of working with and allowing states to implement, regulate and enforce the rules and laws under the purview of the EPA," Inhofe said. "The agency's practice of entering into enigmatic Consent Decrees has led to less transparency, more regulations, and burdensome costs on our energy sector. I look forward to working with the EPA and supporting Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as we work to reign in the EPA's unnecessary and complicating regulatory practices."
"When will this Administration prove its commitment to transparency?" Vitter said. "In the meantime, Americans feel the economic pain of decisions made behind closed doors because their government refuses to allow them a seat at the table."
"I am proud to join Senator Inhofe and the Senate EPW to expose this Administration's use of sue-and-settle procedures to unduly expand federal authority throughout the energy sector," Lankford said. "The DC Circuit Court ruling on the Cross-State Air Pollution rule is a prime example of the need to roll back federal overreach of its statutory authority to pave the way for economic expansion and job creation. We can have clean air and clean water without federal overreach. Through fulfillment of the AGs' FOIA request to clarify how the federal government intends to implement the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the states and federal government can work together to protect our environment efficiently and effectively."
In the letter, the Members highlight a case where a group of state Attorneys General, led by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on August 10, 2012 requesting disclosure on the EPA's decision to undermine several states' authority to implement the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The EPA refused to grant the request. Only after the Attorneys General appealed the decision did the EPA then close the case citing the request was too broad.
The Attorneys General filed a second FOIA request on February 6, 2013 specifying their request for released documents be limited to communications between EPA and Interested Organizations regarding any Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP). The EPA once again denied the fee waiver and terminated work on the request, stating the Attorneys General "have not expressed a specific intent to disseminate the information to the general public."
"The EPA's apparent secret strategy of "sue and settle' threatens Oklahoma interests and families, and authorizes the agency to act in a way inconsistent with the law," Pruitt said. "Obama's EPA is no longer solely about protecting the environment. It is about ending forms of energy that don't fit the worldview of environmental groups. I applaud Sen. Inhofe, Congressman Lankford and Sen. Vitter for working to ensure the EPA responds to the attorneys general's open government requests."
In the letter, the Members request that the EPA make available the information requested by the Attorneys General in the original August 10, 2012 request and state: "It is important for Congress to understand the relationship between EPA and nongovernmental organizations, particularly as it relates to the coordination and influence over public policy making. Moreover, these relationships have the potential to push states and other stakeholders out of the process. Accordingly, releasing the correspondence between the EPA and these entities is in the public interest. The American people deserve to understand the process EPA follows when crafting the environmental policies under which they must live."