A California company fighting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in court has written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to complain that Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers are still pursuing a case after President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on water policy removed the basis for the lawsuit.
The company, formerly known as Greka Oil & Gas Inc., and now called HVI Cat Canyon Inc. (HVI-CC), was sued several years ago over alleged oil spills near its tar leases in the state.
Unlike most companies, HVI-CC fought back, and the results have been embarrassing for the government. At one point, state officials were found to have destroyed potentially exculpatory evidence. Later, it emerged that an EPA official had allegedly threatened company executives with being raped in prison.
Last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order reviewing, with a view to reversing, the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which was promulgated under President Barack Obama. WOTUS expanded the interpretation of the Clean Water Act so to include not only “navigable” waters, but also waters with a “significant nexus” with navigable waters, meaning that the EPA had virtually limitless regulatory authority over water — even, critics charged, over rain puddles on private farmland. Earlier this month, the EPA began to implement the order by preparing for new water rules.
The case against HVI-CC rests partly on the claim that the company discharged oil into dry ditches on private property that rarely fill with rainwater. The company’s lawyers, from the Larson O’Brien firm, complained in a letter to Sessions dated March 21, and provided to Breitbart News, that DOJ lawyers are continuing the case even though “the President’s recent Executive Order expressly disavows the legal arguments it is based on.”
HVI-CC’s lawyers asked the Attorney General to “put an end to the resistance to and obstruction of President Trump’s Executive Order by dismissing this case over which the United States has no jurisdiction,” or at least to “suspend the prosecution of the case until the EPA and the Corps complete the review and rulemaking initiated by the Executive Order.”
In a response to Larson O’Brien dated March 28, the DOJ stated that the case would be continuing, at the direction of “management,” and that the position of the government on the litigation had not changed “at this time.”
The DOJ declined to comment for this article.
A source involved in the case speculated to Breitbart News that the reluctance of the DOJ to drop the litigation was further evidence of the existence of a “deep state” effort by career bureaucrats or Obama-era appointees to undermine President Trump and his new policies.
On Thursday, suspicions arose that a EPA press release criticizing President Trump may have been the result of rivalries between agency officials and Trump administration appointees.
Earlier this month, Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reported that “senior government officials who previously worked under President Obama and remain loyal to his agenda” are opposing Trump from within by altering official communications, counter-acting his directives and selectively leaking to media sources.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.