A Big Day for Transparency on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 9, 2013 — Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee took a brave and principled stand for transparency on Thursday when all eight boycotted a vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said energy and environment experts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Republican boycott meant the committee lacked a quorum and thus could not vote on McCarthy’s nomination.

“Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and other Democratic members of the committee asserted over and over she had answered all their questions—more than 1,000! This is simply untrue,” said Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment.

“To take only the most important instance of obstruction, McCarthy, as Assistant Administrator of the EPA for Air and Radiation for the past four years, repeatedly has refused to share with Congress the data upon which the EPA bases its highly implausible claims of hundreds of billions of dollars in health benefits from recent regulations.”

“This is not about policy, and Sen. David Vitter and the other Republicans on the committee understand this,” said Christopher Horner, senior fellow at CEI, attorney and author of “The Liberal War on Transparency,” research for which uncovered a climate of deceit and obstruction at EPA. “To hear Democrats claim ‘obstruction’ when Republicans ask simply that EPA come clean before having one of its most secretive officials promoted really takes the cake.”

CEI has had to take EPA to court over seven different Freedom of Information Act requests since last fall to force release of public records of conversations among top agency staffers and outside groups on the administration’s war on coal and its attempts to build support for a carbon tax. Several suits are still pending. In one suit that has been settled, the federal court ordered EPA to turn over nearly 12,000 emails, but EPA has withheld or heavily redacted nearly 7,400 of these.

Horner’s research revealed the Obama administration’s widespread disregard for federal laws that dictate how agencies maintain their records and respond to FOIA requests. In the case of EPA, he discovered that Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator for the past four years, ordered EPA staff to create a fake employee named Richard Windsor and assign “his” email account for her to use to conduct official business with environmental pressure groups, other special interests, and top staffers. Her chief counsel resigned shortly thereafter. Jackson resigned a few weeks later, when a federal court ordered that the Richard Windsor e-mails would have to be made public as a result of CEI’s FOIA request.

“The current regime at EPA has claimed it has nothing to hide, while doing everything imaginable to tell us the opposite is true,” Horner said. “If Gina McCarthy wants to be administrator, let her come clean and share the records we have requested. The time to deal with whatever problems the emails and texts may present is now, not after she takes over.”

Even the Society of Environmental Journalists sent out a statement on the day of McCarthy’s confirmation hearing that criticized the EPA’s lack of transparency and mentioned McCarthy specifically.

>> For more on CEI’s efforts to uncover the truth about McCarthy, see our April 26 press release: CEI Files FOIA for Gina McCarthy Text Messages