Inhofe Probes EPA Motives for Posting Power Plant Rule 66 Days after It Said It Did

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | April 29, 2014 | 3:39 PM EDT

Sen. James Inhofe is the Dark Knight when it comes to the EPA.  Inhofe has launched an investigation into suspicions conservative have about the EPA being politicized by this administration.

Inhofe has discovered that the agency delayed releasing a New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) rule for power plants for 66 days despite claiming it did so "as soon as that proposal was released." As a result, the EPA would not have to finalize its ruling until after the 2014 elections, since it would have a year from its date of publication to do so.

From Sen. Inhofe's Press Office:

[Sen. Inhofe] sent a letter Monday to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy seeking answers for the discrepancy in her January 16 on-the-record statement that the EPA submitted the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) rule for power plants to the Federal Register office "as soon as that proposal was released" to the public on Sept. 20. Newly released written correspondence between Inhofe and the Federal Register's office show that the EPA in fact did not submit the rule until Nov. 25, a full 66 days later, giving EPA the ability to not finalize the rule until after the 2014 elections.

In the letter, Inhofe stated: "Based on the sequence of events, 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."

According to a POLITICO article on April 28, of the five major EPA regulations issued since 2008, four were sent to the Federal Register's office for publication within five days of being announced to the public. The fifth regulation had a 23-day gap as it was announced to the public on Dec. 21, 2011, leading into the Christmas holiday.

In closing, Inhofe wrote: "Consequently, I am launching an oversight investigation to determine whether the timing of the proposed NSPS rule's publication on the EPA's website verses the Federal Register was in any way motivated by electoral politics. We respectfully request that you fully respond to the following questions in writing with any supporting documentation or evidence by May 13, 2014:

1. How did EPA make the decision of when to submit the NSPS rule to the Federal Register? Please provide any and all documents referring or relating to the EPA's decision making process on the submission date.

2. At what point did the EPA decide to not submit the NSPS rule to the Federal Register on the same day as the rule was published on the website? Please provide any and all documents and communications records referring or relating to the decision to delay the submission.

3. What involvement or role did the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) play in deciding when to submit the rule to the Federal Register? Please provide any and all documents and communications records between OMB and EPA concerning the NSPS rule, its contents, and its official proposal date."

A full copy of the letter to McCarthy can be read by clicking here.

The Clean Air Act requires regulations such as the NSPS rule to be finalized within a year of being published in the Federal Register. Had the NSPS rule been submitted on or around September 20, 2013, as originally stated by the EPA, the rule would have been finalized before the critical 2014 elections, giving Senators the ability to seek a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval and force a vote to repeal the rule. Earlier this year, Inhofe announced his plans to CRA any major EPA regulations finalized under the Obama Administration.

Let's see how this play out.