Along with my Republican colleagues, I have made five specific requests related to transparency at the agency. The requests were made three weeks ago privately, and were outlined in a letter to the nominee yesterday that was provided to the public. To date, EPA has chosen to ignore three and three-quarters of those requests.
Although much needed reforms in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process seem to be moving forward, there is little doubt the process is broken and has been abused for some time. While the agency was comfortable releasing personal and private information of small businesses and private citizens last month, the EPA continues to abuse the exemptions under FOIA for the Agency's own work.
The nominee recently stated that "information is power." Apparently, she also believes that withholding information is power: Since 1997, Congress has questioned the validity of and asked for the release of the underlying data for studies upon which the Agency bases health benefits when issuing air related rules. The Agency continues to hide this 30-year old data which the National Academy of Sciences stated should have little use for decision making.
The EPA eschews at all costs economic modeling that would verify the true impacts of the regulatory agenda that now provides this country with the lowest workforce participation rate since the Carter Administration. Cost/benefit analyses as required under various executive orders and as required by the CAA, Section 321(a), yet EPA remains intransigent in its opposition to having a transparent economic analysis process.
The backroom "sue and settle" deals made with allies in the environmental community represents perhaps one of the best examples of the Agency's true aversion to sunlight. Rather than providing a process where impacted businesses could intervene in an otherwise closed-door negotiation, EPA objects to the idea of allowing anyone in the room that may not be like-minded in the settlement agreement.
When the President took office in 2009, he promised that his Administration would be the most transparent in history, asserting, "Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use." The nominee before us today echoed her predecessor's sentiment during her own 2009 nomination hearing when she said, "Administrator Jackson made a promise that her EPA will be transparent in it decision-making, and that is... what I will deliver... transparency is more than sharing what the science and the law is telling us, and it is more than making clear decisions that can stand the test of time, which we all know is of paramount importance." EPA has failed to keep the promises of the President, the former Administrator, Lisa Jackson, and the nominee sitting before this committee today.
This Agency as a whole, and the Office of Air and Radiation in particular, suppresses the consequences of its actions from the public; the real economic harm of the rules put forward during the last 4 years - most of which were crafted or signed off by the nominee - and those in the coming 4 is kept secret by a complex process of circumventing FOIA requests and Congressional inquiries, conducting official business using alias and private email accounts, hiding and cherry-picking scientific data, negotiating backroom deals, and the manipulation of cost/benefit numbers.
Let me provide some specific examples of the reasons for my concern:
• In 2010, infamous former EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz became the poster child for EPA's efforts to try and shut down hydraulic fracturing by coordinating a public attack on Range Resources in Parker County, Texas, based on fabricated science. In that same year, the appointee of President Obama let slip that EPA's "general philosophy" is to "crucify" and "make examples" of oil and gas companies regardless of guilt or wrongdoing. The EPA failed in their efforts in Parker County, but Armendariz made clear he believed that new regulations being developed by today's nominee and her office would be the "icing on the cake" for killing energy jobs.
• EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin resigned after lying to a federal court, and after EPA lied that he was not using his private email account to conduct official business in violation of the Federal Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
• EPA also tried to shut down a hydraulic fracturing project in Dimock, PA based on a faulty study, but failed to produce any real evidence of water contamination.
• EPA usurped cooperative federalism with the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) to force Federal Implementation Plans to reduce SOx and NOx emissions on 27 states. Compliance would have led to closures of facilities and mining operations and an estimated increase of $514 million in consumer power prices. The D.C. Circuit shot down the rule in part due to EPA's overreach in the area of State authority...and the courts continue to batter multiple Agency decisions, particularly under the Clean Water Act.
It is expected that in 2013 EPA will propose revisions to the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which, by their estimates, could potentially cost $19 to $90 billion annually and would likely find 85% of U.S. counties designated in nonattainment. The cumulative impacts on jobs, U.S. competitiveness, power prices, fuel use, and electricity reliability of the new Ozone NAAQS as well as other EPA rules to be issued remain unknown.
My question then is: Why should the underlying science and true economic impacts behind EPA's air regulations not be made available to the public? Why - if "information is power" - is EPA so afraid of making public the underlying data that the Agency claims justifies the supposed benefits?
For the last three weeks I have heard nothing but excuses from the EPA:
• Excuses for not complying with the Freedom of Information Act;
• Excuses as to why they won't share emails related to senior officials work that Congress is entitled to;
• Excuses for why they need to exclude those affected by and hide the contents of settlement agreements from the public; and
• Excuses for not being able to share the underlying science for their air rules with the public.
I look forward to further discussing these issues with the nominee today. My hope is that the nominee has come prepared to provide something more substantive than excuses.