07.11.2013 0

Is Gina McCarthy about to be confirmed as EPA head?

By Robert Romano

Gina McCarthy appears to be cruising for confirmation as the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with a key opponent throwing in the towel on blocking her nomination with a filibuster.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) on July 9 in a statement indicated he had reached agreement with the agency on several items including its unresponsiveness to legitimate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

On FOIA, Vitter stated “the EPA agreed to mandate the re-training of the 17,000+ EPA workforce as well committing to issuing new guidance on records maintenance and use of personal email accounts pursuant to and upon completion of the audit by the Inspector General.”

Other to-do’s included disclosure of scientific data used in drawing up air regulations and the appointment of a committee of economic experts to “review EPA’s modeling and the agency’s ability to measure full regulatory impacts, and to make recommendations to the agency.”

Vitter also cited increased transparency on sue-and-settle arrangements the agency enters with organizations. This is where a group sues demanding that the EPA enforce the law in a new, expanded way and the agency enters into a consent decree with the party, which is signed by a judge without review, since the two disputing parties are in “agreement.” This leaves the agency with new powers under, for example, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

According to Vitter, on sue-and-settle, “EPA will publish on two websites the Notices of Intent to Sue (NOI) and Petitions for Rulemaking (PFR) upon receipt. Those websites can be found at http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/petitions-rulemaking and http://www.epa.gov/ogc/noi.html.”

That is all fine. Increased transparency at this rogue agency is sorely needed, as groups like Landmark Legal Foundation and Americans for Limited Government are well aware.

Landmark is still awaiting an adequate response to its FOIA request made in Aug. 2012 “seeking records evidencing communications between EPA officials and individuals or organizations outside of EPA relating to planned, but not yet proposed, rules or regulations.”

The request came in response to “major media outlets published news reports indicating that EPA was intentionally delaying the issuance of controversial new regulations until after the November election.” Ostensibly, the records might confirm the media accounts that the regulatory process was operating on political timetable.

No word yet on whether Vitter’s agreement with the agency will expedite Landmark’s FOIA request. But even if it does, this transparency will likely be not at all sufficient in reining in its excesses.

Interestingly, Vitter stated that he did intend to filibuster Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “unless and until major reforms are made to the bureau.” Senate Republicans have filibustered confirmation of any person to head that agency because they believe it is too powerful. And that is certainly true.

It is also equally true of the EPA. Americans for Limited Government former president Bill Wilson in February made that very point: “Given Obama’s State of the Union threat to continue to pursue unilateral executive actions in lieu of climate change legislation, no nominee to the EPA should be confirmed.”

Specifically, through its carbon endangerment finding and other regulations declaring carbon dioxide and water to be pollutants under the terms of the Clean Air and Water Acts, the agency has taken vast powers upon itself to regulate the economy, restrict energy usage, and compel power plants, oil drillers, coal miners, local governments, businesses, and property owners to comply with sweeping mandates.

If ever there was a runaway, rogue agency worthy of filibustering any nominee to head or serve in, it is the EPA. Through its arbitrary self-grants of power, the agency has all but commandeered the legislative process from Congress and surely congressional reprimand against it is warranted.

Instead, it appears to be smooth sailing for Gina McCarthy and the EPA’s agenda to regulate the economy to death.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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