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Who Writes Rules For Regulations?

In mid-February, House Representatives Henry Waxman (D. CA) and Tom Allen (D. ME) sent a sharply-worded letter to USEPA Administrator Mike Leavitt requesting information regarding a report in The Washington Post that portions of USEPA's latest mercury air pollution control proposal may have been "copied word-for-word from industry lobbying materials."

Allen and Waxman's letter allege that the two memos at issue were written by the 1,500 attorney firm Latham & Watkins. Seems as though an assistant USEPA administrator, Jeffrey Holmstead, and his chief counsel, Bill Wehrum, used to work for Latham & Watkins, according to the Post. The Post article claims nearly a dozen paragraphs were lifted verbatim from the L&W memoranda.

"No one disputes that industry lobbyists were allowed to write significant portions of a formal [US]EPA proposed rule," said Rep. Waxman. "The questions now are how did it happen and how do we restore [US]EPA's credibility and independence?"

"That's not typically the way we do things, borrowing language from other people," Holmstead, head of the EPA's air policy office told the Washington Post. "But it came to us through the interagency process."

USEPA officials dismissed the matter as largely an interagency mix-up that had little to do with shaping the administration's centerpiece proposal for forcing power plants to reduce mercury emissions 70 percent by 2018. They said the law firm language that turned up in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register was related to an alternative proposal that the administration does not support.

Claudia M. O'Brien, lead writer of the Latham & Watkins memos, said it was "gratifying" that the USEPA found the firms' analysis persuasive, but that "we didn't ask [US]EPA to cut and paste our analysis into their [rule-making] preamble," according to the Post. According to her L&W biography, before working for Latham & Watkins, Ms. O'Brien spent six years working for the USEPA.

The final words, in classic governmental lawyer double-speak: "Neither Bill [Wehrum] nor I had any idea this language came from Latham & Watkins," Holmstead said. "Our technical folks who did subcategorization used it."

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 04, 2004 at 09:07 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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