New documents released this week raise serious questions about whether the EPA delayed publication of new environmental rules in order to help Democrats running for re-election in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Worse, the new documents also contradict sworn testimony given before a Senate committee by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, Gina McCarthy, insisting the EPA had published the rules in a timely manner.
Even though the agency had announced the rules two months previously, the EPA waited until November 8 to submit its New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) rules for power plants–rules that will send electric costs soaring, eliminate thousands of jobs, and close coal-fueled power plants across the country. Because of the late submission, the Federal Register didn’t publish the rules until January 8.
According to Politico, “The delay means that the soonest congressional Republicans can force a vote on repealing the rule is January 2015.” This would be months after the issue could have posed a problem for Democrats seeking re-election in November of this year.
In a letter sent to the EPA, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) charges that the dilatory publication of the rule was motivated by politics.
“Based on the sequence of events,” Inhofe says in the letter, “it appears that the delay in the proposal’s publication may have been motivated by a desire to lessen the impact of the President’s harmful environmental policies on this year’s mid-term elections. If EPA had kept the timetable mandated by the President, it would have been obligated to finalize the new rule about six weeks before the 2014 elections. Now, because of EPA’s delay, the proposal will not need to be finalized until well after this election cycle.”
Inhofe promised to launch an investigation “to determine whether the timing of the proposed NSPS rule’s publication… was in any way motivated by electoral politics.”
Last year, in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, EPA chief McCarthy tried to belie fears that her office was engaged in political maneuvering, saying that her office did its due diligence to make sure the rules were published in a timely manner.
“Senator, I will assure you that as soon as that proposal was released, we had submitted it to the Federal Register office,” McCarthy told the Senators on January 16. “The delay was solely the backup in the Federal Register office, and we frequently asked when it was going to come out and how quickly, because it was available on our web page. We wanted to start the formal public process.”
But the new documents seem to contradict McCarthy, showing that the rules weren’t submitted for 66 days, weeks after McCarthy claimed her office had submitted the rules.
Even though the rules were announced and dissected back in September, the delay in its official publication is important because the publication date starts a time clock for public comments and time limits set on environmental rule changes.
The publication date pushed these time periods to end long after the election, conveniently delaying the deleterious effects of the rules until after Election Day.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.