Quantcast

Group Files Suit to Obtain Records of Closed Door Clean Air Act Meetings at White House

Environmental Integrity Project

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) filed suit late on May 8 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain records of 65 meetings that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) held with interest groups to discuss four major Clean Air Act rules under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The scope of the EIP lawsuit includes 51 meetings with representatives of utilities and other industries, and 14 with public interest organizations.

The EPA rules in question are: the Mercury Air Toxics Rule, the Ozone Rule, the Boiler Rule and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. OIRA’s website maintains a list of meetings and attendees for each pending rulemaking.

EIP attorney Alayne Gobeille said: “We are filing the suit because we have received no response from OIRA to our original FOIA request of Jan. 24, 2012, although the law requires to agency to respond within than 30 days. Executive Orders put in place by President Clinton and reaffirmed by President Obama require the records of any meetings that have a significant impact on regulations to be made publicly available as part of the rulemaking record."

Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) website identifies attendees and posts written materials presented at these meetings, but provides no information about the substance of the discussion. No materials were provided at 16 of the meetings in question, including four attended by OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein, leaving the public no clue about the content of those conversations. “Industry lobbyists have every right to meet with the White House about EPA rules,” said Gobeille. “But the public ought to know what was said at these meetings and whether it influenced decisions that are supposed to protect our health and the environment.”

Gobeille added: “OIRA has clearly emerged as a major chokepoint when it comes to regulations that affect the public health, hosting no fewer than 123 meetings related to EPA regulations alone in 2011, including those pertaining to solid waste and the Clean Water Act. Most of these regulations are required by statute and subject to court order requiring their completion. Reasonable people may disagree about the role that OIRA should play in these reviews, but all parties should agree that meeting records that include a summary of discussion should be part of the public record to inform debate about proposals and final decisions.”

The EIP lawsuit focuses on a number of key meetings including the following:

  • On Dec. 16, OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein met with Congressman Darryl Issa to discuss the mercury rule. There were no representatives from EPA present, possibly in violation of Executive Order 12,866, which requires that, “[a] representative from the issuing agency shall be invited to any meeting between OIRA personnel and such person(s).” Gobeille said: “It is possible that this had no impact on the final decision, which was announced the same day, but the meeting violates the spirit of the Executive Order, if not the letter of that document.”
  • Administrator Sunstein also met five times with industry representatives to discuss the mercury rulemaking, twice with representatives of Exelon (Feb. 28 and March 3, 2011), twice with leaders of the Edison Electric Institute (Oct. 31 and Dec. 14, 2011) and once with the CEO of Constellation Energy (March 8, 2011). Written materials were provided at only one of these meetings, and EIP has obtained no summary of discussions in response to our FOIA request. Gobeille said: “It is difficult to believe that five meetings between the head of OIRA—who did not meet with environmental groups on the mercury rule—had no significant impact on the outcome of the rulemaking. At least 16 lawyers or lobbyists did not identify who they were representing at these meetings, leaving the record incomplete. For example, Jeff Holmstead, former director of the Office of Air and Radiation, appeared twice in 2011 without identifying his client.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Rio San Antonio, in the headwaters basin of the Rio Grande in New Mexico, will lose federal protections under a new rule. Bob Wick / BLM California

By Tara Lohan

The Santa Fe River starts high in the forests of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo mountains and flows 46 miles to the Rio Grande. Along the way it plays important roles for wildlife, irrigation, recreation and other cultural uses, and provides 40 percent of the water supply for the city of Santa Fe's 85,000 residents.

Read More
Climate activists protest Chase Bank's continued funding of the fossil fuel industry on May 16, 2019 by setting up a tripod-blockade in midtown Manhattan, clogging traffic for over an hour. Michael Nigro / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Climate campaigners on Friday expressed hope that policymakers who are stalling on taking decisive climate action would reconsider their stance in light of new warnings from an unlikely source: two economists at J.P. Morgan Chase.

Read More
Sponsored
Protesters holding signs in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation outside the Canadian Consulate in NYC. The Indigenous Peoples Day NYC Committee (IPDNYC), a coalition of 13 Indigenous Peoples and indigenous-led organizations gathered outside the Canadian Consulate and Permanent Mission to the UN to support the Wet'suwet'en Nation in their opposition to a Coastal GasLink pipeline scheduled to enter their traditional territory in British Columbia, Canada. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system

Read More
padnpen / iStock / Getty Images

Yet another reason to avoid the typical western diet: eating high-fat, highly processed junk food filled with added sugars can impair brain function and lead to overeating in just one week.

Read More
Horseshoe Bend (seen above) is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River in Page, Arizona. didier.camus / Flickr / public domain

Millions of people rely on the Colorado River, but the climate crisis is causing the river to dry up, putting many at risk of "severe water shortages," according to new research, as The Guardian reported.

Read More