Senator David Vitter (R-La.), ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter on 16th April to Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, that re-iterates five requests for information that the agency has withheld from the committee or commitments to increase transparency in the future. The letter, which was signed by all eight Republican members of the committee, in effect sets down a marker for McCarthy’s confirmation as EPA Administrator by the Senate. If McCarthy fails to satisfy the five requests, then the Republicans on the committee will have good reason to vote against her confirmation.
Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said this week that the committee could vote as early next week on McCarthy’s nomination. That now seems unlikely. It’s more likely that the committee will vote soon after the Senate returns from a week-long recess on 6th May.
The letter states, “…[W]hile you acknowledged serious problems with EPA’s transparency record, acknowledgement does not equal action. We want to hold you to your word and ensure that EPA will be fully transparent on the science, economics, and negotiations related to EPA decisions and rulemaking. For too long, EPA has failed to deliver on the promises of transparency espoused by President Barack Obama, former Administrator Lisa Jackson, and by you.”
The first request is that McCarthy commits the EPA to issue new guidance requiring that all official business be conducted through official e-mail accounts. The second is that McCarthy turn over to the committee unredacted private e-mails that were used to conduct official business. These two requests arise out of the “Richard Windsor” scandal.
The third request is the whopper. EPW Committee Republicans ask McCarthy to turn over the underlying data used to promulgate Clean Air Act rules. Specifically: “That the EPA release a full set of data files for the American Cancer Society Study; the Harvard Six Cities Study; HEI/Krewski et al. 2009; Laden et al. 2006; Lepeule 2012; and Jerrett 2009.” Congress has been trying to get this sort of data since the late 1990s, when Carol Browner was EPA Administrator. McCarthy herself agreed to turn over data underlying major Clean Air Act rules in 2011, but has since refused to do so. It is widely believed that if the data in the studies can be re-analyzed by objective experts, it will show that the health claims for reductions in particulate matter have been wildly exaggerated by the EPA.
The fourth request is that the EPA commits in writing to do economy-wide cost-benefit analyses for all future Clean Air Act rules, as is required by executive order and by the act. The EPA typically only looks at benefits to one section of the economy, such as the number of new jobs that will be created by a regulation, and ignores much larger job losses and other negative effects in other sections of the economy. The fifth request is that the EPA publishes on its web site all petitions for rulemaking, promulgations of new guidance, and notices of intent to sue. In addition, the eight Republicans request that the EPA also make public and give thirty days notice when it enters into negotiations to settle a citizen lawsuit. This will allow interested parties to intervene before the EPA is able to do one of its notorious “sue-and-settle” deals.