Illegal EPA scheming on private email extended to GHG rules

Guest essay by Chris Horner

Former Secretary of State, and presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is not the only current or former Obama administration official facing investigation for use of a private email account skirting federal record keeping laws. The list of offenders recently grew longer, with an interesting twist.

In late May, House Science Committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DoE) seeking private-account emails of a former key staffer. He was following up on revelations from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests I made on behalf of the Energy & Environment Legal Institute. Chairman Smith also wrote to the former appointee, a man named Michael Goo currently ensconced on Capitol Hill as a Democratic lawyer.

E&E Legal had learned that Goo, also formerly with the environmentalist pressure group NRDC, used his Yahoo email account to correspond on work-related issues with former NRDC colleagues, and lobbyists for Sierra Club and other interests. He did so specifically in developing EPA’s controversial greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations expected to go final later this summer.

Suggesting that his next step will be to request Mr. Goos Yahoo emails, Chairman Smith instructed Goo to preserve whatever relevant correspondence he still holds on that account, and to recommend his green-group correspondents do likewise.

In a remarkable parallel, the same morning that these letters issued, Journal columnist Kim Strassel detailed a similar pattern of EPA misbehavior involving its veto of the Alaska Pebble Mine permit. The Goo emails reveal nearly identical same collusive behavior Ms. Strassel detailed but regarding EPA’s far more sweeping GHG regulations.— all the way down to drafting the “Options Memo” with environmentalists, using private email accounts.

(See attachments and screen caps below obtained via the FOIA process)

On May 6, 2010, Goo chose his Yahoo account to send environmental activist and head of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, John Coequyt. This email, with the subject line, “nsps idea”, ran an “NSPS Option” by Sierra. NSPS, or EPA’s New Source Performance Standard, is EPA’s first GHG rule and effectively bans future coal-fired power plants in the U.S., at least as drafted (it is expected to be published in final this August).

Again using Yahoo, Goo then superseded this email with a second, saying “sorry dont use the one in the message use the updated one in the attachment and let me if you cant open the attachment” (spelling and punctuation in the original). EPA did not provide this attachment even though it plainly has no claim of privilege, having shared it with an outside lobbyist. This, surely, is one of the documents Chairman Smith will obtain.

Six days later, on May 12, Goo provided EPA colleagues the draft for review NSPS Options Memo he developed with Sierra Club. The next day, on May 13, 2010, he submitted it to then-Administrator Lisa Jackson. (Incidentally, I also discovered Ms. Jackson used her Verizon email account to correspond about EPA’s agenda with Sierra Club president Michael Brune).

Outside lobbyists, including Coequyt, also chose Goo’s Yahoo account to correspond on EPA issues. Later that same May, Coequyt wrote suggesting “Standards of Performance for Existing Sources,” helpfully confessing, “Attached is a memo I didn’t want to send in public”.

Goo of course was precluded by law from using this account this way, and waited more than two years to turn these exemplars over to EPA. We received them in the last of two years of productions under a FOIA lawsuit. Presumably the Science Committee will learn whether these are all such correspondence. The available context suggests that that is unlikely.

Other emails show EPA internally circulating a list of proposed, but shelved, coal plants that Sierra Club wanted to see blocked by whatever standard EPA came up with (April 9, 2011 spreadsheet from Coequyt to Goo and EPA’s Alex Barron titled “Zombie’s” [sic]).

These records prove how EPA gave anti-coal activists an opportunity to review, comment, and shape the strategy EPA would pursue to block development of more coal plants and shutter existing plants. The Agency prepared its global warming regulations with green activists to the exclusion of the coal industry and others. Its lawyer tasked with drafting the Options Memo led that coordination. E&E Legal expects to file litigation challenging the rule on this basis.

In the Pebble Mine case, EPA claims that the behavior “occurred at a very junior level of staff.” Goo was tasked with drafting and providing the Administrator with greenhouse gas rule options, so expect that dodge to gain even less traction here.

Regardless, the federal judge handling the Pebble litigation was not moved by such claims. Even before providing its similar if less damning emails, Pebble’s owners had sufficiently demonstrated coordination for the court to order EPA to stop all veto-related work, while further inquiry proceeds into this collusion and otherwise the propriety of EPA’s actions.

As regards EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations, the E&E Legal had already shown in detail EPA’s collusion with greens, in a special report airing many dozens of FOIA’d emails.

As is the likely outcome in the Pebble Mine case, these revelations should cause a court to overturn EPA’s unlawful actions. EPA must be required to prepare its global warming agenda anew, without conflict, in an open and transparent manner providing such insider treatment to none. The taxpayers, our economy and the law demand nothing less.


 

Chris Horner is an attorney in Washington, DC, representing several public interest groups on Freedom of Information matters.

Attachment+4_111d+Memo+5+30 (PDF)Coequyt 111d memo I didn't want to send publicly Coequyt NSPS Option II page 1 Coequyt NSPS Option II page 2 Sierra giving EPA the argument that gas prices would rise w_KXL

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56 thoughts on “Illegal EPA scheming on private email extended to GHG rules

  1. Goo of course was precluded by law from using this account this way…

    This Administration could not care less about such legalities. They have an agenda which takes precedence. The law only applies to political enemies, not to supporters.

    To get any timely action, the U.S. Attorney General would have to actually do something. But taking action is only done in cases like Zimmerman’s, never on the EPA’s serial lawbreaking.

    I rarely make predictions. But here’s one I suspect will happen: upon leaving office this President will have the longest list of names in history eligible for pardons. Maybe more names than all past Presidents combined…

    …OK, that was easy peasy. Here’s another one: GW Bush won’t be on the list.

    • Since the broad emergence of individual email accounts, the the use of private email to “secure” some communications at agency and higher levels has been common. It isn’t limited to any specific administration, nor any particular government (US, State, County, …).

  2. The revolving door between green NGOs has to be closed under RICO. The problem is that the revolving door works for both the left and right. Politicians, staffers and lawyers on both sides make a ton of money moving between corporate, NGOs and ABCs. There is little desire on the part of politicians to start throwing these people in jail where they belong because they are them.

  3. You have to give the current administration credit. They make no bones about what they intend to do, and they don’t care a damn about the laws that preclude them from doing it. It has really been fascinating how completely outside the law and in the open, they operate.

    dbstealey – I think you probably are correct when it comes to those pardons, too, both predictions, not that GW should be pardoned in the first place.

  4. knowing ahead of time that EPA regulations are pending, collaborating green groups would know which stocks to dump and which stock to buy, ahead of public traders. an investments made as a result should be insider trading and subject to criminal prosecution. given the divestment being promoted by green groups, and the revelation of non-public information that would affect this decision, will we see the SEC investigating?

    http://www.sec.gov/answers/insider.htm
    Illegal insider trading refers generally to buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security.

    • Probably because it is an administration.

      No US administration has been immune from being painted as “diabolical,” and at some degree, every singe one has deserved it. Jefferson, my favorite president, nearly lost the War of 1812 before it ever started (he wasn’t even in office) through his penny pinching, “big government” fearing policies. He simply, and despite experience, did not want a US Navy strong enough to defend the US from a British threat, fearing such a navy could be used at home to worse effect. Consequently he advocated the stupidest naval policy ever supported some one who was otherwise a genius. The result; his consistent pattern of hobbling the growth of the Federal Government at the risk of increasing foreign threats lead to the War of 1812 being fought with a mere handful of war ships that could be taken seriously. Andy Jackson refused to implement a supreme court decision because he did not like indians and thought displacing them for the sake of gold miners was a better idea. To this day there are Cherokee who will not accept a 20-dollar bill.

      Lincoln…. Grant…. Roosevelt (both)… Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and on to the present.

  5. We need a new marketplace for EPA information from the hacker community, since over reach agencies are otherwise immune to traditional FOIA channels. It’s time for a way around.

  6. What is the statute of limitations on this sort of thing? We have less than 1.5 years before the next president takes office and begins to clean house. It would be a good distraction for the new administration to begin digging out corruption and prosecuting those responsible.

    • I’m no lawyer, I just act like one on the internet … But it depends on how you approach, and the specifics of the situation. The limits relative for many civil crimes that aren’t specifically enumerated in criminal statutes is generally 3 years, but the clock doesn’t start running until someone is damaged, so it would be 3 years from the date of implementation of the rule.

  7. But when it comes to getting Big Coal out of the way, Big Oil and Big Green both stand to profit. Maybe the skeptics don’t get a dime but the Sierra Club got a few: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/09/17/sierra-club-and-sierra-club-foundation-accused-of-tax-law-violations/
    So this was the EPA colluding with the Greens at the behest of Chesapeake Energy. Maybe Putin outbid Chesapeake to get the Sierra Club off the fracking bandwagon–with laundered money of course. –AGF

    • somebody discovered that the eye retains image for 1/20sec or something so projecting images at 24 frames per second images overlapped giving the illusion of real time. I am just listening to a CD, I wonder if it is in packets of time ?

      • Yes, usually the audio is sampled at 44 kHz per channel then your ear and brain piece together those ~23 microsecond pulses into the coherent music or spoken word that you hear. 44kHz was chosen because the human audio range is usually taken as 20Hz to 20kHz, and in order to duplicate a frequency you need slightly more than 2 samples per cycle. In this case they use 2.2 as the samples per highest frequency to avoid aliasing. Engineers always like a little fudge factor in any design.

        Of course I am not entirely sure what this has to do with the article…

  8. it is a bit weird really, I don’t disappear and then reappear, at least I don’t think so. So I can guess that the consciousness that is me that continues accepts the inhabitation of this body and my surroundings. You might then say if I inhabit this body I also inhabit the surroundings.
    Gosh it gets very difficult when you start thinking about this sort of stuff.

    • I can draw ( that’s another thing )( and then animate ) well this is really what I am saying.
      this thought and sensing in time is really what we should question. my2p

      • yes, yes ,yes OK. if somebody is dying from an accident you shouldn’t draw them or ask them which was the last time they had a ham sandwich as a questionnaire.
        the value of consciousness is determined by strong mind, week mind might just throw away his very consciousness because of stupidly week mind interrupted by nasty mind.
        By understanding consciousness human explains to other human by ritual ( because they are so thick )
        :0)

      • I have thought this might be true from working with smart guys ( actually 2 ).
        That some guys might be be so smart that they had to invent rituals to keep us thickos happy

      • Is it OK if I say ?
        ” We humans <<<<<<<<<<<HUMAN SPECIES, do not need any religious bollocks to make us strong" ?
        that's more or less it.

      • that’s like a punk saying fvck off but I want you to know that I really care about scientific progress and I believe one day a guy will look at the smallest smallest thing he managed to take a picture of and he will say ” I do not understand what I am seeing “

      • Zemlik, I am not a very religious guy, but there’s a distinct need for religion, as least somewhat peaceful ones. Baltimore and Ferguson, with little relgious influence, responded to APPARENT abhorrent act of racism with violence, arson, and destruction. Charleston, strongly influenced by religion, responded to an ACTUAL abhorrent act of racism with throngs of people singing, “Amazing Grace.”

        Man’s natural predisposition seems to favor violence. Religion is one of the more effective ways to educate him otherwise (again, not all religions). I think Voltaire had it right when he said someting like, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

    • I thought that is exactly what happens, there are slices of time and space too small to be occupied in the classical manner, less than 5.39121 × 10−44 s or less than 1.616252×10−35 m, called Planck scale; a kind of “here be dragons” in physics.

  9. “The taxpayers, our economy and the law demand nothing less.”

    Um, it does not appear that any of those three items are high on this Administration’s agenda.

  10. This is the second time I’ve visited an article and found everything (both article text and comments) to be center justified. Many of the comments are unreadable because of this. I have used a html “end center” at the start of this comment. It worked before and I anticipate it will work this time too.

    What’s up with the formatting?

  11. This looks like my senator (who is on the investigating committee) was actually paying attention. I’ve been begging for this for the last four or five years.

  12. Perhaps the Chinese hackers, as system administrators, can enlighten us on EPA employees, their communications, incomes, and ghost employees.

    • …and I’m willing to pay for that service, in place of the disservice from federal agencies these days.

  13. Yes, but alarmists are allowed to do anything to save the planet aren’t they?

  14. If this Goo guy is guilty, giving justification for turning over every rock, lots could be revealed.

  15. “EPA must be required to prepare its global warming agenda anew, without conflict, in an open and transparent manner providing such insider treatment to none.”

    An open and transparent process would be nice, but the outcome would likely be the same. The collusion has already taken place, and they already know what is expected of them.

  16. America’s efforts to “clean up” our environment over the last 40 years have been wildly successful, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to the alarmists. You’d think that no progress has been made according to the political message of groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, EDF, etc. There is no recognition that at least some “pollution” is an unavoidable by-product and trade-off of producing all the goods and service that even the pro-EPA environmentalists enjoy. No concept of the diminishing returns as the EPA demands that manufacturers chase ever smaller emissions in the parts-per-billion. The mandates are ever-tightening as the benefits diminish and become microscopic, the costs are skyrocketing. The impossible goal of “zero emission” can be translated as “lifetime employment” for the friendly folks at the EPA and believe me, they do hire their “friends”; nepotism is rampant at federal agencies such as the EPA and HUD. The only thing that could stop this insanity is to cut the EPA’s budget by 90%. Just holding them to the rate of inflation illicits screams and howls, so it’s hard to see how reform will ever happen.

  17. Someone remind the EPA that it is illegal and improper to use a government position or privelage to publicly protest or oppose a project or policy; you can for example protest against a project as a citizen, but not as a government official or agency.

    I once saw National Parks officers protesting against a project in their capacity as public servants, which led to court proceedings against the officers. I also had to respond to a letter from National Parks officials threatening legal action against another department which was simply following proper legal processes related to licencing, which was entirely outside the jurisdiction of National Parks.

    This is the public service opposing the public service, which is dysfunctional government. A court for example cant obstruct the process of law, nor the police not carry it out.

    These are very simply concepts, but not for the EPA.

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