Coal Industry Regulations Were A Laughing Matter to the EPA

Susan Jones | February 20, 2013 | 6:49am EST
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks with The Associated Press at EPA Headquarters in Washington on April 17, 2012. (AP File Photo)

( - Lisa Jackson recently left her job as EPA administrator amid an investigation into her use of alias email accounts. She apparently used those secret accounts to shield official agency business from Freedom of Information Act requests.

In one of those emails, recently obtained by a free-market think tank, an EPA employee mocked proposed coal ash regulations, joking that Jackson "knows which landfill's leaching, She knows which pond might break, She knows they all lack liners, Close 'em down, for goodness sake!"

The Competitive Enterprise Institute says it has now received thousands of heavily redacted emails sent by or to Jackson and her email alias, Richard Windsor.

(CEI sued the EPA to force compliance with its FOIA requests related to the EPA’s coal policies. The second batch of emails was released three hours after most federal offices had closed on Feb. 15 for the holiday weekend.)

According to CEI, "nearly 95 percent of the correspondence from the administrator and more than 80 percent of the email sent to ‘Richard Windsor’ – excluding news stories available to the public – were redacted (blacked out), despite claims by President Obama his was the most transparent administration ever."

To justify 85 percent of the redactions, the EPA used an exception that allows agencies to exempt "deliberative" exchanges with senior staff.

But, as CEI noted, "Some revelations did occur," including the following Christmas poem sent to Jackson from an EPA employee.  Meant to be sung to the tune of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," the poem is titled "Coal Ash Regs Are Comin' to Town."

(In June 2010, the EPA proposed the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. The goal, it said, was to protect drinking water, but critics, including CEI, called it part of the Obama administration's "war on coal.")

Coal Ash Regs Are Comin' To Town

She's making a list,
Priority: High,
Gonna find out who's wet or dry.
Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

Yes, Lisa Jackson,
Is making all haste,
EPA's cracking down, On combustion waste.
Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

She knows which landfill's leaching,
She knows which pond might break,
She knows they all lack liners,
Close 'em down, for goodness sake!

One-thirty million tons,
Ev-ery year,
Spew from coal plants, Far and near.
Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

So, you better watch out,
Coal waste fly,
A high hazard, Either wet or dry.
Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

In testimony to a congressional subcommittee in October 2011, the American Coal Council noted that an increasing number of coal generators were shutting down their power plants because they couldn't meet environmental objectives:

"Why are some folks gleeful about that?" asked ACC's CEO Janet Gellici in her prepared testimony. "Where is the satisfaction in having our nation’s largest electric power providers shut their doors, stop producing low-cost electricity, fire their employees, and still not reach our environmental objectives?

"There can be only one conclusion -- that the real objective is not to reduce emissions -- that we are really not concerned with meeting environmental objectives. It would appear that other agendas are in play here, agendas to eliminate coal generation from our energy portfolio simply because it is based on coal."

In mid-December 2012 -- two weeks before Lisa Jackson announced her resignation under pressure -- the EPA’s inspector general announced it is auditing the agency’s email records to “determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business.”

Jackson left her job on Feb. 15.  Her deputy, Bob Perciasepe, is now acting EPA administrator.  Perciasepe served as a senior EPA official in the Clinton administration, and later he worked as chief operating officer at the National Audubon Society, one of the world’s leading environmental organizations.

Also See:

EPA Administrator’s Non-Public Emails Called ‘Deeply Troubling’

Transparency? EPA Under Investigation for Using 'Alias' Emails to Avoid FOIA Requests

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