The Weekly Standard: The EPA Doubles Down: Its latest regulations show an agency captured by environmental activists

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by Steven Hayward
The Weekly Standard Magazine

Over the years, “agency capture” has been a staple of the economic analysis of regulation—the phenomenon whereby regulatory agencies would come to be largely controlled by the industries they purported to regulate, or at the very least would protect those industries as a cartel in a tradeoff for regulatory control. Railroads dominated the Interstate Commerce Commission during much of its early life, and for decades airlines used the Civil Aeronautics Board to stifle competition and innovation…

This is nowhere more evident than at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has for practical purposes become a wholly owned subsidiary of the environmental movement. Beyond a revolving door between environmental advocacy and senior EPA staff positions, there is ample evidence of close collaboration between environmental organizations and EPA staff in regulatory rule-making and even in permitting decisions.

A cache of emails and other communication records that the Energy and Environment Legal Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute pried from the EPA through Freedom of Information Act litigation reveals close connections between EPA and the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund. While these collaborations may not cross a legal boundary, they certainly violate any sense of transparency and the duty of a regulatory agency to be impartial. And as with Hillary Clinton’s private email server, senior EPA officials went out of their way to communicate through pseudonymous email addresses (like former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” emails) and private accounts, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to avoid public scrutiny. In addition, EPA staff sometimes arranged to meet environmentalists offsite to avoid having to log visits to EPA offices.

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