- High-ranking officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referenced a vague “‘climate emergency’ initiative” in internal communications sent on July 21, 2022, according to emails obtained by Energy Policy Advocates.
- Though the exact nature and details of the “‘climate emergency’ initiative” remain unclear because the EPA did not turn over key email attachments to Energy Policy Advocates, the emails are dated just days after The Washington Post reported that President Joe Biden was considering declaring a national climate emergency in the summer of 2022 and weeks after the EPA endured a setback from the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia v. EPA.
- “The point of declaring a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act is to go around the Administrative Procedures Act and just impose rules,” Chris Horner, counsel for Energy Policy Advocates, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
High-ranking officials within the Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) internally circulated an outline for a “‘climate emergency’ initiative” proposal in July 2022, emails obtained by Energy Policy Advocates show.
The emails discussed a July 2022 proposal for a “‘climate emergency’ initiative” from the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), an EPA subagency, approximately one month after the Supreme Court struck down the EPA’s ability to limit emissions of existing power plants with its ruling in West Virginia v. EPA and days after The Washington Post reported that President Joe Biden was considering declaring a national climate emergency. Several high-level EPA officials were looped into the relevant emails, including OAR’s chief bureaucrat Joseph Goffman, EPA Chief of Staff Dan Utech, OAR Senior Advisor Cynthia Giles, OAR assistant administrator and former Soros fellow Tomas Carbonell, OAR assistant administrator and former Sierra Club attorney Alejandra Nunez and then-EPA Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Alison Cassady, who has since moved on to work in the Biden White House as senior energy policy advisor.
Energy Policy Advocates obtained the emails via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, but the EPA did not hand over the attached documents detailing the specifics of the initiative when it eventually produced the emails to Energy Policy Advocates, according to a member of the organization.
Because the EPA has not produced the attachments to the emails, the exact nature and details of the “‘climate emergency’ initiative” remain unclear. However, Biden reportedly considered declaring a national climate emergency in the summer of 2022, according to a Washington Post article published on July 18 of that year.
Biden called climate change “an existential threat to our nation” and promised executive action in a speech delivered on July 20, 2022, but stopped short of declaring a national climate emergency and invoking emergency powers.
Goffman sent an email to Utech, Cassady, Giles, Carbonell and Nunez just after 7:00 p.m. on July 22, 2022 with a subject line reading “OAR proposal for ‘climate emergency’ initiative” and an attached Microsoft Word document titled “OAR outline of proposed strategy for responding to the climate emergency v2.” In the message’s body, Goffman wrote, “As mentioned at this AM’s Weekly Check-in. Thanks.”
About five minutes after Goffman’s message, Giles sent the initiative’s outline to Goffman with the subject line “Outline for your review” and with a Microsoft Word document attachment titled “OAR outline of proposed strategy for responding to the climate emergency,” the emails show. In the body of her message, Giles wrote to Goffman that the outline document was ready “for [his] review and comment.”
Giles was formerly the chair of the Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club, an enforcement administrator for former President Barack Obama’s EPA and a member of the Biden administration’s transition team before accepting her current position as a senior advisor in the OAR, according to her LinkedIn profile.
“Great outline! Thank you,” Goffman said in reply to Giles’s email about ten minutes after it was sent. Also copied on the message signaling Goffman’s approval were Nunez and Carbonell, who serve as the OAR’s deputy assistant administrator for mobile sources and the deputy assistant administrator for stationary sources, respectively.
“The point of declaring a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act is to go around the Administrative Procedures Act and just impose rules, just to take what they want to do but have repeatedly been denied by the courts,” Chris Horner, counsel for Energy Policy Advisors, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Imagine an order declaring an imminent threat, a threat so grave and imminent that it isn’t even practicable to go to court over, such that the president imposes some emissions standard to take effect by 2030 or be phased in ‘as soon as practicable.’”
Talk of an emergency declaration cooled significantly after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the end of July 2022 to support the Inflation Reduction Act in an evenly-divided Senate, which ultimately led to the bill passing in August 2022.
Republicans Rep. August Pfluger of Texas and Republican Sen. Shelley Capito of West Virginia introduced legislation in June 2023 which would preemptively disallow any attempt by Biden to invoke emergency powers on the basis of climate change if it becomes law.
Goffman testified in his unsuccessful March 2023 Senate confirmation hearing that he would act “with the integrity, transparency, and accountability that (EPA) Administrator Regan insists on” if confirmed to the position of Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the OAR. EPA internal investigators have opened an ethics probe into Goffman after a third-party watchdog group filed a complaint alleging that he had not sufficiently recused himself from interactions with Harvard University, his former employer, in his capacity as an EPA official, according to E&E News.
The EPA did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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