EPA Official Showers Love on Anti-Fossil Fuel Activists

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Susan Hedman

As President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency continues to receive much-needed scrutiny as it conducts its reign of terror (“crucifying”) on fossil fuel industries, yet another renegade regional administrator has been shown in full alliance with environmental extremists in pursuit of regulations to kill oil and coal. Natural gas isn't far down the hit list.

This time it’s Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, a veteran attorney who has litigated environmental cases as part of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Center, as counsel for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and as senior assistant attorney general in the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Last August she joined dozens of activists outside her Chicago office to celebrate the expected implementation of EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics Standard, which was released in December. Bloomberg reported that the rule would cost utilities an estimated $9.6 billion per year in compliance costs, fulfilling the president’s campaign promise to make electricity costs “necessarily skyrocket.”

“We really appreciate your enthusiastic support for this rule,” Hedman gushed before a crowd of 90-or-so eco-activists. “It’s quite literally a breath of fresh air compared with what’s going on in the nation’s capital these days,” she added, referring to a “tough political climate” for EPA.

Region 5 covers Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Among the groups represented at the rally, which gathered on the final day EPA accepted public comments on the rule (as though comments would change anything), were Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club, Environment Illinois and several others. Health care representatives also participated, claiming the Clean Air Act that the rule would amend achieved data-specific milestones that are unverifiable.

“It saved 160,000 lives and prevented 86,000 emergency room visits last year alone,” said Brian Urbaszewski of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

But Steve Milloy, who publishes the Web site Junkscience.com, co-wrote (with Harvard physicist Willie Soon) in the Washington Times that current levels of mercury (harmful to humans when deposited in water resources and ingested by fish) “are neither exceptional nor alarming.” The subject of their piece was an April hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in which the new EPA rule was scrutinized. Among those appearing was Syracuse University professor Charles Driscoll, who endorsed the position that emissions from coal-fired power plants in the U.S. are the primary cause of mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region, most of which falls under Hedman’s oversight.

“But a 2012 study in the journal Environmental Pollution noted that mercury in Lake Michigan, for example, has declined dramatically (more than 50 percent) since the mid-20th century,” Milloy and Soon wrote. “The study’s explanation for this decline has nothing to do with atmospheric deposition of mercury, but rather it was due to the curtailment of direct industrial and wastewater discharges in the lake.”

The study might have been dismissed as a mere disagreement among scientists, except one of the co-authors of the report was Driscoll! 

As for Hedman, her sympathies and agenda in support of environmental extremism – specifically in support of the EPA MATS regulation.

“Thank you especially for this last group of comments coming in on the last day of our comment period on the new (MATS),” Hedman said in a congratulatory tone, holding up a huge stack of papers. “Really (emphasis hers) appreciate these. We’ll review these comments along with the other 600,000 comments that we’ve received in Washington, and we plan to have a final rule issued by November.”

Watch the video – do you think Hedman would have behaved similarly if groups of coal and utility workers held a publicity stunt about their own MATS comments in front of her Chicago office? Would you consider her, and EPA in general, a fair evaluator of all the comments they received on MATS?

“The unprecedented response that we have received to this rule tells me – and it tells the EPA generally – that Americans are tired of waiting for clean air…,” she said.

“In Washington, EPA faces a very tough political climate. But President Obama and (EPA) Administrator (Lisa) Jackson are standing firm in our fight to protect the environment, and the health of Americans, with environmental safeguards like these….Your active involvement on these issues is so very, very important. We’re all in this fight together, to make these safeguards a reality.”

Undoubtedly the political discomfort Hedman referred to comes from Congressional overseers like Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, who is the chamber’s strongest critic of the global warming alarmism industry and of excessive, inconsequential (health-wise) regulations of the utility sector. He recently called attention to the behavior of (now former) EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armandariz, who in a video unearthed by Inhofe’s staff spoke of his practice of “crucifying” oil and natural gas companies to compel compliance. Armandariz resigned shortly after the video was revealed.

Hedman and Armandariz are only two in a systemic attitudinal problem at EPA. As NLPC revealed last month, Region 8 Administrator James Martin denies there is widespread scientific disagreement about whether global warming is a threat to the planet.

“You could have a convention of all the scientists who dispute climate change in a relatively small phone booth,” he told the Denver Post in 2008. Martin also was part of a ginned-up case in Pavillion, Wyoming, that insinuated groundwater contamination was attributable to hydraulic fracturing in the area, although testing did not prove conclusive.

And this week Inhofe has unveiled footage of Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding, who praised Jackson – his boss – for her implementation of greenhouse gas standards on coal-fired power plants. “She had to do what the law and policy suggested,” he said, noting that the new regulations would lead to the destruction of coal-mining communities like those in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Inhofe also released a video that contained series of clips of President Obama and various EPA regulators stating their mission to force the U.S. economy away from efficient and affordable fossil fuels, in favor of costly “green” energy.

Yesterday Armandariz was scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about his “crucifying” comments and practices, but he cancelled at the last minute. He was still in Washington apparently, though, as evidence shows he met with Sierra Club officials at their headquarters a few blocks from Capitol Hill.

“Rather than testifying in the House and being accountable for carrying out the Obama-EPA’s ‘crucify them’ agenda, it appears Mr. Armendariz may have had a job interview with the Sierra Club,” Inhofe told National Journal. “With such an impressive job-killing resume, it would be no surprise if the Sierra Club is recruiting him for their ‘Beyond Gas’ campaign designed to ‘prevent any new gas plants from being built’ and to end natural gas production in this country.” 

It shows what cowards many at EPA are – rather than defend their indefensible behavior before the publicly-elected officials they are accountable to, they instead decry how “tough” it is in Washington to face a “political climate” that refuses to go along with their extreme agenda. At the same time they eagerly pop out at photo-ops with their environmentalist homeys who show up at their offices to shower love upon them. It’s pretty sickening.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.