Press release: E&E Legal FOIA’d Documents Expose Plans by EPA and Sierra Club/National Wildlife Fund to Employ Sketchy Economic Argument to Undermine Keystone XL Pipeline
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by Tom Tanton, E&E Legal Director of Science and Technology Assessment Real
For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2014
Washington, D.C. – Additional documents obtained by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) further illuminate the cozy, even collusive working relationship between the EPA, Sierra Club, and other pressure groups for which the Sierra Club served as the main liaison with EPA. This latest batch of emails are part of that team’s coordinated effort to block the Keystone XL pipeline.
In one e-mail, after acknowledging a strategy session that occurred the day before with the agency officials, Sierra Club Washington Representative Lena Moffitt wrote to Alex Barron, EPA Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy, and two other EPA officials, Michael Goo and Arvin Genesan: “I know this is a tough issue but please do let me know if I can be helpful in any way – particularly in further identifying those opportunities for EPA to engage that don’t involve ‘throwing your body across the tracks,’ as Michael put it.”
E&E Legal counsel Christopher Horner, who filed the FOIA requests and lawsuit, noted, “I thank Sierra Club for inadvertently assisting our effort to hold the Obama administration to its promise of transparency. By, according to Ms. Moffitt, repeating in writing what EPA official and former green-group activist Goo only spoke, the public now knows EPA’s involvement, what the Agency told allies it could realistically do to help block Keystone, and that it had opened the floor for suggestions.”
These emails also illustrate Sierra Club flailing to develop political opposition to the project, reduced even to arguing against one of their reasons for being: higher energy prices. Sierra Club of course is dedicated to blocking the most abundant energy resources from the market, inherently pushing for “necessarily skyrocket[ing]” energy prices, as then-candidate Barack Obama described the expected outcome of his and Sierra Club’s shared priority of “cap and trade”. (Click here for a video of Obama’s remarks.)
Grasping for an argument that might sell, Moffitt wrote in another e-mail to Barron that higher energy prices are “simply not in the national interest.” E&E Legal heartily seconds Sierra’s claim, however sincere it is, or isn’t.
Other emails reveals that another left wing pressure group, for which Sierra served as liaison to EPA, sought to hire The Brattle Group to assist their campaign, providing a more authoritative voice for their economic claims. Jurgen Weiss, a principal with the consulting firm, raised his concerns about the viability of their approach. Responding to an inquiry from Ryan Salmon, Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator for the National Wildlife Fun (NWF), Weiss said that, although there were obvious political points the green groups might try and score this way, it was not likely a proposal he would fight for internally given, “As you can tell, I am currently not convinced that the argument you are trying to make is really strong based on economics…”
The records referenced above come in a “rolling production” under litigation over two specific 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, filed by E&E Legal under its former name, the American Tradition Institute. After several months of EPA refusal to process the requests, an EPA FOIA specialist admitted over the telephone that she and her colleague were instructed to do no work on the requests, as E&E Legal counsel Chris Horner attested in a sworn affidavit.
Mostly e-mails between EPA top officials and the Sierra Club, these records produced to date lay bare the practice by EPA employees, with backgrounds working for green pressure groups, serving as liaisons to those groups in advancing a shared agenda. Other documents affirm the close advisory role the pressure groups play in key EPA actions, like EPA’s recently published New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new coal-fired plants. (See a recent E&E Legal press release for more details.)
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.