Senate Dem's report criticizing EPA critics written by green pressure group

We've known for years that radical green groups have been secretly collaborating with the EPA in the writing of regulations and policy papers.  But Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the primary global warming hysterics on Capitol Hill, has taken this effort one step farther by publishing a report accusing EPA critics of working closely with fossile fuel companies.  The report was written by a lawyer representing the EPA in a civil suit.

When the Washington Free Beacon made inquiries about the report, the document was scrubbed.

After the Washington Free Beacon sought comment from Whitehouse and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), one of the report’s co-authors, a new version of the document appeared online without digital fingerprints identifying the environmentalist attorney as its author.

The report, released on Monday by Democratic Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, Barbara Boxer (Calif.), and Ed Markey (Mass.), is written to resemble an amicus brief in ongoing litigation challenging Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. A federal court heard oral arguments in that case on Tuesday.

One of the parties in that litigation is the Sierra Club, a leading environmentalist group that enlisted the services of attorneys with the group EarthJustice to defend the EPA regulations in court.

David Baron, one of the EarthJustice attorneys working on behalf of the Sierra Club, appears to have assisted the Democratic senators in putting together their report on the regulations’ legal challengers. Metadata in the since-deleted version of the Senate Democrats’ report listed him as the document’s “author.”

The new version of the report was created at 9:42 a.m. on Wednesday morning, according to the document’s metadata, and lists Whitehouse staffer Gifford Wong as its author.

Whitehouse, Reid, Boxer, and Markey did not respond to questions about EarthJustice’s role in creating the report. EarthJustice and the Sierra Club did not return requests for comment.

Though the initial document’s metadata indicated the file was created by Baron, it is not clear what role he and EarthJustice played in crafting the report’s contents or the extent to which the group’s input made it into the final product.

It was also not immediately clear whether EarthJustice was compensated in any way for its work on the report.

Senate ethics rules generally classify pro-bono legal assistance as a “gift” subject to a $50 limit. Boxer, one of the report’s ostensible authors, is a vice chair of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Ethics rules make exceptions to the gift rule for pro-bono legal services provided to senators filing legal briefs in their official capacity. The four senators who released this week’s report also signed on to an amicus brief supporting the disputed EPA regulations, but their report was not an official legal document.

The report “demonstrates that the state officials, trade associations, front groups, and industry-funded scientists participating in the [EPA regulation legal] challenge actually represent the interests of the fossil fuel industry,” according to a news release on Whitehouse’s website.

This sort of "help" offered by private groups to a federal agency is not new, and both sides have done it in the past.  During the Bush years, fossil fuel trade association executives routinely edited reports on climate change.

It's a practice that is clearly unethical but not illegal.  The question should be one of transparency.  If a federal agency receives assistance in any way from a private group, it should be mentioned up front of any report generated by that assistance.  Whitehouse and Reid went so far as to try to hide the evidence of complicity with green groups in a campaign to discredit critics of the agency.  This should be looked at by the Ethics Committee for possible violations of congressional rules.

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