Carper, Whitehouse release report detailing ethics lapses between EPA, law firm – News – Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
After months of investigation, Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, unveiled a report on July 22nd, titled “Redefining Air: The Power Industry Pipeline at the EPA Air and Air Radiation”.
The report details the efforts of former Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum and his senior attorney, David Harlow, to achieve policy results for the benefit of several industry organizations from Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, the law firm where Wehrum and Harlow previously worked, represented their terms of office at EPA. The report reveals new evidence of ethical errors by Wehrum.
The report examines how Hunton creates industry groups such as the now-defunct Utility Air Regulatory Group, as well as court records, public comments and regulatory petitions. The report documents the amazing success Hunton-founded groups had with the EPA’s Air and Radiation Office during Wehrum’s tenure.
Although Wehrum left the EPA in June under the scrutiny of heightened Congressional oversight, Harlow remains with the agency – as have the Hhrton-driven rollbacks that Wehrum and Harlow have undertaken. In addition to Wehrum and Harlow’s success in achieving a higher rollback of the air pollution control that their former Hunton customers sought,[t]His research also identified numerous technical, often arcane, political changes being sought by industrial groups represented by Hunton that have significant effects on air pollution. These policy changes and actions taken by the authorities to implement them illustrate the close relationship between Hunton and former Hunton employees who are now directing that country’s air pollution policy with the EPA. “
The report also raises ethical questions about the relationship between Wehrum, Harlow and member firms of various industry groups represented by Hunton[ing] whether Wehrum and Harlow have spoken openly about their previous legal work on behalf of these companies and whether they have followed ethical standards for public service. This investigation identifies circumstances in which Wehrum and Harlow may have been involved in litigation and other matters beneficial to Hunton and former clients. failed to report the existence of former customers from whom they should have been reused; and improperly encountered former clients, including former clients who were not properly disclosed to the agency’s ethics officers. “
The full list of Hunton organizations examined in the report includes:
– The Utility Air Regulatory Group, itself a former customer of Wehrum and Harlow, which until its recent demise comprised several trading organizations and coal-fired power plant operators, including at least three other former Wehrum customers – Dominion, Duke Energy and Salt River Project – and at least two other former Harlow customers, DTE Energy and LG & E & KU Energy;
– The Air Permitting Forum, which is nominally committed to the approval of air quality regulations and whose members include a former customer of Wehrum and Harlow – Chevron – and at least three other former customers of Wehrum – ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific and General Electric – and six other companies that are not former customers of Wehrum or Harlow – Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Shell and International Paper;
– The Auto Industry Forum, a “sub-coalition” of the Air Permitting Forum that represents multiple automakers on issues related to stationary source emissions and whose members include at least Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Toyota;
– The NAAQS Implementation Coalition, which advocates political changes that increase the possibilities for political interventions in air quality standards or weaken them in other ways, and its members include the UARG and thus the members of the UARG as well as at least three other former Wehrum customers , Americans, include the Forest & Paper Association, the American Petroleum Institute and the Brick Industry Association, and;
– The CCS Alliance, which advocates carbon capture and storage and whose members include at least two former UARG members, the National Mining Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, as well as Berkshire Hathaway Energy, NRG Energy, PacifiCorp and Zurich North America .
The report shows that several industry groups founded by Hunton have sought major regulatory changes that would increase air pollution, exacerbate climate change, and reduce the amount of pollution information available to the public. Among the dozen of changes, Hunton and his industry associations have asked the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas needs for new and existing coal-fired power plants. enabling the biggest polluters to release more toxic air pollution; and so power plants against the wind can pollute more communities against the wind. These industry groups founded by Hunton have also made technical and novel arguments that have been or are being adopted by the EPA, e.g. B. How to consider certain types of benefits when performing economic analysis for mercury regulations. how to get independent scientists out of the way on scientific advisory boards; or even how to redefine what counts as “ambient air” which is primarily protected by the Clean Air Act.
The report also reveals obvious violations of ethical rules. Some of these violations have already been described while others are being exposed for the first time. In addition to Wehrum and Harlow’s apparent violations of the Trump Ethics Pledge and the Ethics in Government Act provisions through their involvement in the development of the DTE memo, which benefited both DTE and UARG, Carper and Whitehouse also identified former customers, who did so Wehrum failed to disclose to EPO ethics officers or withdraw from a meeting as required by its ethics agreement. Wehrum, and possibly Harlow, have also artificially – and perhaps wrongly – neglected to include individual members of the UARG as “former clients” whom he has been rejected even though those individual companies funded Hunton’s legal work and Hunton has successfully argued in court that his Communication with these companies falls under legal and client law.
This is not the first time Carper and Whitehouse have raised concerns about Wehrum and Harlow’s commitment to their former clients and industry groups represented by Hunton during their tenure at EPA.
In February, Carper and Whitehouse, along with Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of House Energy and Commerce, D-New Jersey, wrote a letter to the acting Inspector General of the EPA asking him to examine the roles of Wehrum and Harlow in developing a memorandum, des “DTE”, memo to investigate, “which benefited both former employer Hunton and client DTE Energy, although ethical rules forbade their involvement.
In March 2019, Carper and Whitehouse as well as Chairman Pallone informed the acting Inspector General of the EPA in a supplementary letter that the EPA in the DTE memo had passed without discussion a novel interpretation of the NSR regulations previously only used by Hunton’s lawyers in the underlying DTE had been drafted litigation.
In May, the Carper and Whitehouse offices identified the language in the DTE memo, copied verbatim from a document Hunton filed with the EPA on behalf of the Air Permitting Forum, an industry group represented by Hunton with no existence outside the law firm.
In light of the results of the report, Carper and Whitehouse also sent a letter requesting the acting Inspector General to review the report following the consequences of Mr Wehrum’s departure from the agency. These are institutional concerns that may recur in the future, but are beyond your review if you evade your responsibility for conducting and completing an evidence-based investigation. Furthermore, the ethical flaws and lack of accountability that permeate the Trump administration should not be supported by an implicit message that simply stepping back before the investigation is completed can avoid an investigation. “
The full letter is available at bit.ly/2Y3qHWA.