Immigration amendment would give legal status to victims of climate change

Caroline May
The Daily Caller
June 21, 2013

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz filed an amendment to the Senate immigration bill this week that would allow people displaced by climate change to seek conditional legal status, according to a report in ThinkProgress.

“The amendment I am proposing is quite simple. If enacted, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may designate individuals or a group of individuals displaced permanently by climate change as stateless persons,” Schatz said, according to ThinkProgress.

“Again, let me be clear about what this amendment does. It simply recognizes that climate change, like war, is one of the most significant contributors to homelessness in the world,” he added. “And like with states torn apart and made uninhabitable by war, we have an obligation not to deport people back to a country made uninhabitable by sea level rise and other extreme environmental changes that render these states desolate.”

“It does not grant any individual or group of individuals outside the United States with any new status or avenue for seeking asylum in the United States,” he said.

The Schatz amendment, introduced Wednesday, also calls for a Government Accountability Office study on “climate change-induced migration,” including the extent of internal migration due to climate change for the residents of Alaska, Hawaii, territories and other states, as well as the government costs associated with the migration.

Read the full article online here.


EPA exaggerated the benefits of regulation

Michael Bastasch
The Daily Caller
June 13, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency may have greatly exaggerated the purported benefits of regulations regarding formaldehyde emissions, Republican senators claimed after a White House review substantially reduced the estimated benefits the agency’s rules would bring.

“The EPA has been gaming the system by grossly exaggerating economic benefits to justify its costly regulations,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “This recent review by an office within the Obama White House goes to show that even his Administration cannot support EPA’s practice. It’s not just a minor exaggeration: the EPA’s lowest range of benefits is ten times greater than it should be.”

The EPA initially estimated that its rule governing formaldehyde emissions yielded between $91 million and $278 million in financial benefits “due to avoided incidence of asthma, eye irritation, nasopharyngeal cancer and reduced female fertility.”

However, the White House Office of Management and Budget reviewed the rule and slashed those benefits to a range of $9 million to $48 million.

The EPA initially estimated the costs of the rule to be between $72 million and $81 million per year.

Senate Republicans have criticized the EPA’s method of assessing the costs and benefits of regulations in the past, even making it one of their five transparency requests to EPA administrator nominee Gina McCarthy.

In particular, Republicans in the House and Senate have been calling on the EPA to make public data that is used to calculate benefits under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has used secret data to claim that benefits of clean air regulations exceed the costs by a 30-to-1 ratio.

Read the full article online here.


Lawmakers press EPA for answers on alleged 'bias' against conservative groups

Fox News
June 8, 2013

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined in accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of "apparent bias" against conservative groups following a claim that it routinely showed favoritism to liberal organizations.

The allegations were first made by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank. It claimed the EPA was not being fair as it weighed whether to charge fees to groups seeking information via Freedom of Information Act requests.

Its research showed liberal groups have their fees for documents waived about 90 percent of the time, while conservative groups are denied fee waivers about 90 percent of the time.

"This activity calls into question the objectivity of the FOIA employees at EPA and undermines public confidence in an agency that is charged with protecting our air and water," a group of nearly three dozen House Republicans wrote in a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said in a separate statement that the findings are "not a coincidence" and track with the kind of targeting conducted by the IRS against conservative groups.

"Politics should not play a role in approving or denying fee waivers, and the EPA clearly crossed the line by injecting bias and favoritism into their decision making process," he said.

In the letter, he and other lawmakers asked a string of questions on the EPA policy governing fee waivers, including who is in charge of that determination.

The letter follows efforts by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to probe the allegations.

Perciasepe told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 16 that "our policy is to treat everybody the same," and the agency is considering pursuing an investigation.

Read the full article online here.


EPA accused of singling out conservative groups, amid IRS scandal

Eric Shawn
Fox News
June 4, 2013

It's not just the IRS.

A second federal agency is facing a probe and accusations of political bias over its alleged targeting of conservative groups.
The allegations concern the Environmental Protection Agency, which is being accused of trying to charge conservative groups fees while largely exempting liberal groups. The fees applied to Freedom of Information Act requests -- allegedly, the EPA waived them for liberal groups far more often than it did for conservative ones.

The allegations are under investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is also holding hearings on the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups.

"I don't think it is fair at all. It is not fair to the American taxpayer -- the American taxpayer should expect and demand that the EPA treats everyone equally in regard to these requests," said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "This cannot be tolerated. As we see more federal agencies with this kind of bias, it is and should be a concern for all of us."

Research by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank, claims that the political bias is routine when it comes to deciding which groups are charged fees. Christopher Horner, senior fellow at CEI, said liberal groups have their fees for documents waived about 90 percent of the time, in contrast with conservative groups that it claims are denied fee waivers about 90 percent of the time.

"The idea is to throw hurdles in our way," charged Horner, who says he decided to look into the fee structure after the EPA repeatedly turned down his group for waivers.

"In 20 cases of ours, since the beginning of last year, we were expressly denied, or denied by them simply refusing to respond, in 18 out of 20 cases," said Horner, explaining that the batting percentage for fees waived in favor of liberal groups is overwhelming.

Read the full article online here.


Ambulance shuts off due to EPA regulations, man dies

John Daniels
May 31, 2013

34-year-old Nathan McRae was critically injured in a shootout with police in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 29. As he was being rushed to a hospital, the ambulance broke down forcing the crew to wait on the side of the road until a replacement vehicle could arrive. Even though CPR was performed in this interval, McRae was pronounced dead at Howard University Hospital.

According to the ambulance driver, the break down occurred due to an intentional mechanism in the vehicle mandated by the EPA. The ambulance, which is a diesel vehicle, automatically shuts off if the emission control system is not able to function properly. This is not the first time the ambulance has recently had the problem. According to Deputy Chief John Donnelly of D.C. Fire and EMS:

"On May 22nd or 23rd, it was here in the shop,” said Deputy Chief John Donnelly of D.C. Fire and EMS. “It had a problem with the regeneration system. That problem was a lot different. The end result is the same - the engine gave a warning light. But it was different in some ways and we sent it to the dealer and got it back. It was repaired and it was running fine when we put it back in service.”

While the EPA granted waivers for fire engines and ambulances after many other complaints, Donnely stated he was unsure if it was possible to disconnect the control mechanism or if new units would have to be purchased.

Read the full article online here.


Chicken fight: Study backs farmer in pollution battle with EPA

Perry Chiaramonte
May 23, 2013
Fox News

West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt didn't chicken out when the Environmental Protection Agency threatened her with fines of $40,000 per day, and even though the federal regulators eventually backed off, she's taking them on in a legal case that could benefit thousands of small farmers.

Alt, who owns the small Eight is Enough poultry farm in the town of Old Fields, was hit with the fines after EPA officials claimed high levels of nitrogen in her chickens' waste were fouling waterways. She fought back by filing a lawsuit of her own in federal court of the Northern District of West Virginia, and although the EPA dropped the fines, a judge has kept the case on the docket. Alt's lawyers argue the EPA is wrong to deny small operations like hers the Clean Water Act's statutory exemption for “agricultural stormwater," which big farms get and believe the massive agency has to change its rules - and use better science.

“[T]his Court’s ultimate decision on the merits will benefit all parties, including EPA and many thousands of farmers, by clarifying the extent of federal CWA ‘discharge’ liability and permit requirements for ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard,” the court ruled in rejecting the EPA's bid to have the case dismissed.

Alt's case could get a boost from a new University of Delaware study, which shows the EPA has been overestimating the environmental effect of runoff from feedlots and small farms like Alt's for years. The study found that the level of nitrogen found in chicken manure is 55 percent lower than the decades-old standards set by the EPA. Those findings could give Alt and her legal team powerful ammunition when they go to court on behalf of small farmers everywhere.

“Ms. Alt has courageously taken on EPA not just for her own benefit, but for the benefit of other farmers,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “She refused to back down from her principles despite the best efforts of EPA and environmental groups.”

Read the full article online here.


Not Just the IRS: Federal Agencies Are Politicizing the FOIA Process, Too

Mike Riggs
May 14, 2013

The IRS isn't the only federal agency under Pres. Obama to have politicized its mission.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission have both been accused of politicizing the process by which outside group request information from the agencies. And today, the Environmental Protection Agency joins that list for "routinely" waiving freedom of information fees for environmentalist groups while routinely denying fee waiver requests filed by think tanks that frequently criticize the EPA. The Washington Examiner reports that:

For 92 percent of requests from green groups, the EPA cooperated by waiving fees for the information. Those requests came from the National Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Waterkeeper Alliance, Greenpeace, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Of the requests that were denied, the EPA said the group either didn’t respond to requests for justification of a waiver, or didn’t express intent to disseminate the information to the general public, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner. CEI, on the other hand, had its requests denied 93 percent of the time. One requests was denied because CEI failed to express its intent to disseminate the information to the general public. The rest were denied because the agency said CEI “failed to demonstrate that the release of the information requested significantly increases the public understanding of government operations or activities.” Similarly, requests from conservative groups Judicial Watch and National Center for Public Policy Research were approved half the time, and all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied.

FOIA fees can add up in a hurry, so it's not uncommon for requesters to argue that their fees should be waived. The criteria for asking for a waiver is pretty simple. The EPA lists a two-part criteria:

The FOIA Office will grant a fee waiver request if the requester adequately shows, based on all available information, that (1) disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and (2) is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. The FOIA Office considers fee waiver requests on a case-by-case basis, because EPA is not allowed to give fee waivers to requesters on a class basis.

Easy, right? Nope, because the EPA claims quite a bit of an interpretive license when determining whether requesters have "adequately showed" etc., etc…

Read the rest of the article online here.


EPA Waives Fees for Some Groups, But Not Conservatives

Greg Richter
May 14, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service isn't the only government agency that treats conservative groups differently than others, a group advocating for limited government says.

The Environmental Protection Agency waives its fees for big "green" groups 92 percent of the time while it waives fees for major conservative groups only seven percent of the time, the Competitive Enterprise Institute said Tuesday.

EPA records provided to the CEI in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit "illustrate a pattern of making it far more difficult for limited-government groups – in particular those who argue for more freedom and less EPA – to access public records," the CEI reported.

"Such groups are precisely those Congress and courts made clear FOIA was intended to protect from fees being used as a hurdle to obtaining information, without prejudice as to their perspective," CEI said. The EPA, it argues, gave favor to "the same green groups it’s been shown to be collaborating with on its agenda."

The EPA routinely waives fees when the information they are providing is requested by media outlets or by watchdog groups. But CEI said it found its own requests denied most of the time.

CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner reviewed letters either granting or denying fee waivers from January 2012 until spring 2013. In that time, Horner reported that "green" groups, such as the National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and EarthJustice, obtained waivers in 75 out of 82 cases.

Read the rest of the article online here.

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