Emails Reveal EPA Collaboration with Activist Groups

Published February 11, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely collaborates with environmental activist groups to develop stringent regulatory policies and strategies, according to emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The emails confirm longstanding suspicions that EPA pursues hidden agendas on behalf of environmental activist groups.

Avoiding Sign-In Sheets
The Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) obtained emails showing the Starbucks located in the J.W. Marriot Hotel near EPA’s Washington DC headquarters serve as a convenient “off campus” meeting place, where EPA officials and environmental activists plot strategy. By sitting down with government regulators at the local Starbucks rather than EPA headquarters, environmental activists can avoid signing in at EPA headquarters and thus keep the meetings secret.

Activist Group Infiltration
In an email sent to three senior-level EPA officials, Lena Moffit of the Sierra Club expressed her gratitude for a meeting about the Keystone XL pipeline. “Thanks so much for meeting with us on the Keystone XL yesterday,” she wrote. “Let me know if I can be helpful in any way—particularly in identifying those opportunities for EPA to engage that don’t involve ‘throwing your body across the tracks’ as Michael put it.”

The “Michael” whom Moffit referred to is Michael Goo, who at the time was associate administrator for policy at EPA. Prior to working for EPA, Goo was a top staffer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Goo now works in the Obama administration’s Department of Energy. Other senior EPA officials included in the email were Alex Barron and Arvin Genessan.

In another email to Barron, the Sierra Club’s Moffit discusses coming up with a message to mobilize public opinion against the Keystone XL pipeline. Expressing her frustration, Moffit acknowledges higher energy prices make the messaging difficult.

Many of the Obama administration’s political appointees to EPA and the Department of the Interior are, like Goo, drawn from environmental activist groups. The emails show the Sierra Club functions as a liaison between EPA and environmental groups.

Emails Heavily Redacted
After much delay, EPA turned over the emails in response to two requests by E&E Law, then operating as the American Tradition Institute. According to a sworn affidavit signed by E&E Legal’s Christopher Horner, a FOIA specialist with EPA admitted on the phone she and her colleagues had been instructed not to work on the requests. When EPA finally turned over the emails to E&E Legal, they were heavily redacted. Nevertheless, enough information remained to show the improper collaboration between EPA and environmental activist groups.

Coal Specifically Targeted
Emails previously obtained by E&E Legal revealed close cooperation between the Sierra Club and EPA in developing policies to cripple the coal industry. In one email, John Coequyt, head of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, tried to pressure EPA into adopting regulations so strict that coal plants that had already received construction permits would no longer be commercially viable.

“The emails affirm what analysts long suspected regarding EPA and its pressure-group allies, particularly the Sierra Club, with which it shares a ‘beyond coal’ agenda,” Horner said. 

“EPA has improperly made decisions with the participation of Obama administration appointees and EPA professional staff who are the Sierra Club’s agents in the federal government just as EPA is,” Horner explained. “EPA is permitted to regulate, but these revelations show conclusively that a new beginning is necessary.” 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.