EPA Shuns Federal Agencies, States, Congress, Private Sector, and Even Itself (but not green special interests!)

by William Yeatman on February 24, 2015

in Blog

Last April, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed a regulation that would “clarify” federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Both agencies—rather than EPA alone—administer the Act, which is why both agencies proposed the jurisdictional rule.

On February 4th, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told a congressional committee that her agency was working on a number of revisions to the rule. However, her suggested alterations were news to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA’s supposed partner, according to a report last Friday by Inside EPA ($):

Moreover, the industry source says the Corps does not does appear to have seen a draft of any revised changes since November, and a second industry source similarly says that Corps staff have “expressed frustration” that they’ve had limited involvement in the rulemaking.

Thus, EPA reportedly has sidelined the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, this is only the latest instance of EPA refusing to cooperate with a sister federal agency.*

EPA’s repeated spurning of federal agencies within the same administration raises an important question: Is there anyone with whom Obama’s EPA will work, besides the green lobby?

Consider, for example, EPA’s current rocky rapport with the States, which are supposed to be EPA’s equal partner in the cooperative federalism regulatory regime established by the Congress in order to improve the environment. As has been documented on this blog, EPA has maintained an unprecedentedly discordant relationship with the States since President Obama took office. In practice, Obama’s EPA has turned cooperative federalism into coercive federalism.

It’s not just the States and fellow federal agencies; EPA’s relations with Congress are at a similar nadir. Allow me to explain by way of anecdote. In my free time, I enjoy reading administrative law textbooks of old. These books take it for granted that federal agencies do the bidding of the Congress. Of course, this stands to reason: federal agencies are created by Congress via enabling statutes, and they are maintained by Congress with appropriations. Simply put, when Congress wanted information from a federal agency, the agency complied (with a smile).  Alas, this is no longer the case. The contemporary EPA refuses to comply with congressional requests even after the information is subpoenaed! This state of affairs would have been unthinkable in very recent history.

After reading the above, it will come as no shock to you, dear reader, that EPA has a contentious relationship with the private sector, too. It’s not just the “war on coal”; An overbearing EPA is American business’s #1 federal concern (by far), according to a 2011 survey conducted by the House Oversight and Government Committee.

Federal agencies, States, Congress, the private sector….All of them have been ignored by EPA as it pursues its agenda. But it gets worse! In the same Inside EPA article excerpted above ($), it is reported that EPA is ignoring even itself (i.e., its own regional offices), in addition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as the agency headquarters revises the Clean Water Act jurisdictional rule. Here’s the relevant text from the article:

Some sources have also suggested that EPA regional offices have provided data to agency headquarters on potential impacts associated with the rulemaking, but that headquarters has not kept them abreast of the process of revising the proposed rule. For example, the state source says that calls conducting outreach with state and local agencies have since the proposed rule was issued in April of last year “primarily been run by [headquarters] staff.”

Above, I’ve listed all the entities that are shunned by EPA. Yet this isn’t to say that EPA ignores everybody. As we’ve chronicled on this blog (see, e.g., here, here, and here), the agency is more than willing to carry water for the green special interests that helped elect President Obama.

*Last August, I reported about congressional testimony delivered by Charles McConnell, former assistant secretary for fossil energy at the Energy Department in the Obama administration. As I then explained:

His [McConnell’s] office was responsible for facilitating federal assistance in the development of carbon capture and sequester (CCS) technology. In fact, EPA proposed to require CCS technology in its controversial carbon rule for new coal-fired power plants, the Carbon Pollution Standard. You’d think that the agency would welcome the Energy Department’s assistance, given that the EPA possesses no expertise in CCS technology. Alas, you’d be wrong. McConnell told the committee that “a true collaborative effort would have been far different from what I observed.” According to Mr. McConnell, EPA viewed the interagency process as a “box-checking exercise” and he called the agency’s attitude “disingenuous.”

Frederick Colbourne February 25, 2015 at 3:33 am

The solution is very simple if Congress has the nerve: force the EPA to do zero-base budgeting as a condition for funding.

That means ranking the functions of the agency by importance with costs of each function.

Then Congress would cut the funding by 50% leaving intact the most important functions.

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