The EPA's Inappropriate Alliance with Radical Environmental Groups Must Stop
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By Drew Johnson
While running for reelection in 2012, President Obama repeatedly claimed that he would pursue an "all of the above" energy policy. But after winning a second term, his administration seems to have decided that "all of the above" doesn't include oil, natural gas or coal.
In just the past year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed forward regulations designed to stop new coal plants and shut down old ones, continued to block the much-needed Keystone XL pipeline, and pushed for regulations that threaten to impede production of natural gas. Under Obama, oil and gas production on federal lands has been stifled.
The latest and most disturbing evidence of this bias against conventional energy comes from a raft of e-mails unearthed as part of a lawsuit against the EPA. These emails document extensive collusion between EPA officials and environmental activists.
They show, for example, EPA officials working directly with green groups to coordinate messaging, decide on locations for public hearings, help environmentalists gather public comments to support the EPA and give advance notice of an administrative order.
The Energy and Environment Legal Institute, which sued to retrieve these emails, noted that the "level of coordination in these documents is shocking."
What's especially troubling about these revelations is that the EPA appears to be working hand in glove with environmental groups bent on strictly limiting, if not eliminating, oil, natural gas and coal production in the United States.
The Sierra Club, for example, not only wants to do away with coal, but now has a "Beyond Natural Gas" campaign that calls this energy source "dirty, dangerous and run amok." That's despite the fact that natural gas is a clean and abundant source of domestic energy that is directly responsible for the recent decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet emails suggest the EPA is now actively promoting environmentalists' unfounded attack against natural gas.
In one correspondence, regional EPA administrator James Martin tells the general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund that a set of hearings in Denver "will make Roy Palmer nervous!" Palmer is an executive with Xcel Energy, a leading natural gas utility in Colorado.
In January, the EPA reassured environmentalists that it plans to move ahead on implementing cumbersome rules concerning fracking, an advanced drilling technology that is responsible for making vast supplies of domestic natural gas and oil economically recoverable.
The emails also reveal how the EPA has plotted with environmentalists to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline, which if it's ever built will provide U.S. refiners with access to tremendous supplies of oil from our Canadian neighbor.
The Sierra Club's Lena Moffit thanks an EPA senior advisor for meeting with the organization and even offers to suggest ways to stop the pipeline from being built in one e-mail.
This isn't the first time the EPA was found in a too-cozy relationship with green groups hostile to conventional energy sources. Under Obama, the EPA has increasingly used what critics call a "sue and settle" strategy. First, environmental groups sue the EPA, claiming it's not doing enough or is moving too slowly. The EPA then quickly settles, agreeing essentially to everything the green groups want. Often, the EPA even reimburses the environmentalist groups' litigation costs.
A Chamber of Commerce report found 60 such "sue and settle" cases in Obama's first term, which resulted in the EPA agreeing to publish more than 100 new regulations that will cost the economy billions. A dozen state attorneys general are now suing the EPA to release records of these settlement deals with environmentalists.
The country simply cannot afford to have an agency as powerful as the EPA working with activist groups to put needless roadblocks in front of energy production.
The reality is traditional forms of energy will remain the dominate source of energy for decades. The Energy Information Administration reports that renewable energy will fill just 10 percent of the nation's needs by 2040, up only slightly from today's 7 percent. Meanwhile, oil will account for 35 percent, and natural gas 29 percent.
What's more, encouraging the development of cheaper conventional energy is good for the economy, creating jobs while making businesses more competitive in the global marketplace. It's no mystery why oil rich Texas and North Dakota economies are booming and unemployment in those states is so low.
The bottom line is that the EPA shouldn't be in the business of dictating which energy source the country can use, much less working with outside activist groups to make that happen. If the mission of the EPA truly is to "protect human health and the environment" it must base its decisions on the facts, not on the ideology of hardline green energy groups.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government.