Effect Measure

EPA takes the Fifth

Recently we posted on the EPA highly unusual (as in unprecedented) decision to reject Californian’s new greenhouse gas regulations. Why did they do it? Good question and one the California Congressional delegation wanted an answer to. To whom did EPA talk about the regulations? Who advised them to reject it? Sorry. Mum’s the word. Actually its words. Executive privilege:

Invoking executive privilege, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday refused to provide lawmakers with a full explanation of why it rejected California’s greenhouse gas regulations.

The EPA informed Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that many of the documents she had requested contained internal deliberations or attorney-client communications that would not be shared now with Congress.

“EPA is concerned about the chilling effect that would occur if agency employees believed their frank and honest opinions and analysis expressed as part of assessing California’s waiver request were to be disclosed in a broad setting,” EPA’s associate administrator Christopher P. Bliley wrote.

More than a week after a deadline set by Boxer, the agency gave her environmental committee a box of documents with numerous pages left almost entirely blank and others with key information redacted, Boxer said. (AP via Yahoo News)

Many people were encouraged when California’s Republican governor signed legislation establishing greenhouse gas standards for trucks, SUVs and cars. It requires car makers to cut tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases by 30% by 2016. A third of the states were prepared to follow California’s lead. I guess States Rights are only important to these guys when it’s a Right they like, so EPA nixed California’s initiative. Now they are refusing to provide a full explanation.

I suppose you could say they did supply a partial explanation. Partial, as in a 43 slide Power Point presentation where 16 pages had everything but the titles eliminated. I know. It’s a hard program to use. Apparently there’s also a lot of redacted stuff in other documents and still others not made available. EPA must know they are on shaky grounds because they are offering to allow Boxer and her staff to view the documents privately and even take notes on them. If so, then why not release them? Probably because they look pretty bad in stark black and white.

The EPA is being sued by California and 15 other states for this piece of administrative malpractice. So you can sympathize with this additional explanation by EPA’s associate administrator Christopher P. Bliley:

“Further disclosure of this type of confidential information could jeopardize the agency’s ability to effectively litigate claims related to California’s waiver request,” the EPA’s Bliley wrote.

Translation: We refuse to answer on the grounds it may incriminate us.

Comments

  1. #1 Trinifar
    January 22, 2008

    The EPA is not the Defense or State Department. It has no function regarding state secrets. How can they claim “executive privilege”? I live in California. This adminstration makes all sorts of claims about state’s rights (which I suspect are just clarion calls in coded words to their base). What about my right to expect my state to instutite reasonable laws regulating greenhouse gases?

    Damn.

  2. #2 GrayGaffer
    January 23, 2008

    Executive Privilege is reserved uniquely to the President of the United States (the head of the Executive Branch). It is a felony to use EP to hide criminal activities. It may also be a felony for any other body to claim it for any reason.

    <rant>

    In the vein of “if you did nothing wrong, why hide it?”, I think it has to be a Very Good Thing ™ for any and all deliberations that affect our governing policies to be in the open. If you think The People would disapprove of your input to a debate, damm right you’d better keep quiet and not bring it up.

    I think it is time that elected officials, like immigrants, have to pass a test on the Constitution of the United States as pre-qualification for office. Be nice if natural citizens did too, before voting, but I guess one can’t have everything. Know that the prime killer of Democracy is ignorance. Worse, is making stuff up to cover ignorance. Worse yet is taking advantage of the ignorant to slide personal advantage past them.

    </rant>

  3. #3 GrayGaffer
    January 23, 2008

    Well, it may be available to other department heads in the Executive Branch.

    However, this does not include the EPA, which is an Independent Agency. As such, EPA is:

    “Independent establishments are created by Congress to address concerns that go beyond the scope of ordinary legislation. These agencies are responsible for keeping the government and economy running smoothly.”

    (ref: http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/Independent.shtml)

    and therefore is part of the Legislative branch, not the Executive. Therefore Executive Privilege is _not_ available to them.

  4. #4 GrayGaffer
    January 23, 2008

    Now I’m really confused. EPA is created by Congress, but is also included in the Federal Executive Branch listings. I learned that the various Executive depts are created by the President as needed, not by Congress, to carry out the Executive functions, so the EPA appears to fall in the cracks.

    They may be able to hide behind EP after all. Likely their reasons involve unethical closed-door dealings with auto manufacturers without public interest representation, but unethical is not ipso facto criminal. So we’re stuck.

    On a personal note, research is fun!

  5. #5 FO
    January 23, 2008

    EPA = Egregious Pretentious Arseholes?

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