Politics

Now boarding the Obama Administration scandal train: the EPA

Now boarding the Obama Administration scandal train: the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency would like you to know it can abuse its power to punish Barack Obama’s political enemies as well as the next agency, thank you very much.  In this case, it’s more a question of first-class seating and concierge service for Obama’s political allies, while those nasty conservatives get stuck in economy class, behind the jet engine, in the middle seat, right next to the screaming baby, while the flight attendants block off the lavatory with a beverage cart that never seems to get any closer to their seats.

From the Washington Examiner

Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived, according to requests reviewed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

CEI reviewed Freedom of Information Act requests sent between January 2012 and this spring from several environmental groups friendly to the EPA’s mission, and several conservative groups, to see how equally the agency applies its fee waiver policy for media and watchdog groups. Government agencies are supposed to waive fees for groups disseminating information for public benefit.

“This is as clear an example of disparate treatment as the IRS’ hurdles selectively imposed upon groups with names ominously reflecting an interest in, say, a less intrusive or biased federal government,” said CEI fellow Chris Horner.

Just how disparate was this treatment?

For 92 percent of requests from green groups, the EPA cooperated by waiving fees for the information. Those requests came from the Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Waterkeeper Alliance, Greenpeace, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Of the requests that were denied, the EPA said the group either didn’t respond to requests for justification of a waiver, or didn’t express intent to disseminate the information to the general public, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner. 

CEI, on the other hand, had its requests denied 93 percent of the time. One request was denied because CEI failed to express its intent to disseminate the information to the general public. The rest were denied because the agency said CEI “failed to demonstrate that the release of the information requested significantly increases the public understanding of government operations or activities.”

Boy, does that ever sound like a subjective standard.  Perhaps the Administration should deny all further requests for information on the grounds that its behavior is incomprehensible, so nothing would “significantly increase the public understanding of government operations or activities.”

More details from the CEI website, where Chris Horner says every denial he appealed was overturned:

“That these denials are ritually overturned on appeal, not after I presented any new evidence or made any new point, but simply restated what was a detailed and heavily sourced legal document to begin with, reaffirms the illegitimacy of these hurdles EPA places in the way of those who cause it problems.” Horner said. “EPA’s practice is to take care of its friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties’ requests for information.”

The numbers for a sampling of comparable “national” groups are mind-boggling. Of Sierra Club’s 15 requests, EPA granted 11. And Sierra Club received the harshest of treatments. In fact, EPA granted 19 of NRDC’s 20 requests and 17 of EarthJustice’s 19 requests. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility went a perfect 17-for-17. The Waterkeeper Alliance had all three of its requests granted, Greenpeace and the Southern Environmental Law Center each were 2-for-2, the Center for Biological Diversity 4-for-4.

That is, these green pressure groups encountered a cooperative EPA 92 percent of the time, but Horner’s requests on behalf of CEI and the American Tradition Institute were rejected more than 93 percent of the time.

EPA documents also showed Judicial Watch and the National Center for Public Policy Research each went 2-for-4, the Franklin Center had both its requests denied, and the Institute for Energy Research was denied in its only foray.

CEI has been recognized as a media outlet by federal and state agencies, so it is worth noting liberal media outlets, such as National Public Radio (7-for-7), ProPublica (3-for-3), the Nation and InsideClimateNews – all had all their requests granted over the same period.

Maybe the Justice Department could look into this, as soon as it’s finished investigating the IRS, the State Department, the White House, and itself.

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