Political, legal problems for next president piling up at the EPA

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Photo - Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., wants to know why the EPA has ignored a federal law requiring the agency to publish its proposed regulatory agenda every six months. The last time EPA did so was October 2011.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., wants to know why the EPA has ignored a federal law requiring the agency to publish its proposed regulatory agenda every six months. The last time EPA did so was October 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
News,Mark Tapscott,Watchdog

Regardless of whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is inaugurated president in January 2013, it appears the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going to be a source of continuing headaches.

First, there is Congress, especially Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who would become chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee if his party wins a majority of the upper chamber in the election. He is presently the ranking minority member of the panel.

Earlier today, Inhofe made public a letter to President Obama in which the senator pointed out that EPA has not published its regulatory agenda for the next six months, as it is required to do every April and October. The agency also did not publish the agenda in April of this year.

The law requires the semi-annual publication of EPA's regulatory plans "to promote predictability and reduce uncertainty," Inhofe said in his letter to Obama.

"An accurate forecast of upcoming regulatory actions is important to affected businesses as well as state and local governments that, in many instances, share the burden of complying with federal mandates," Inhofe said.

Last week, Inhofe released a report noting that EPA has delayed until after the election implementation of multiple new regulatory proposals that he contends could cost millions of jobs.

In the letter to Obama, Inhofe referred to the report, saying "my primary concern is with the agency's refusal to be open and transparent about its regulatory agenda. Magnifying this concern is that EPA, in what appears to be a string of politically motivated decisions, has 'punted' or put on hold until after the election a number of economically damaging regulations, including greenhouse gas regulations, strict mandates for ground-level ozone, as well as guidance which seeks to greatly expand EPA's authority to regulate waters of the U.S."

Go here to read the full Inhofe letter. He discussed the letter and related issues earlier today on Fox News.

The second source of likely problems at EPA for the next president stems from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed this week against the agency by the Landmark Legal Foundation, which is headed by talk radio host and former Reagan Justice department appointee Mark Levin.

In an Aug. 17, 2012, FOIA request, Landmark sought copies of all documents related to pending regulatory proposals. After months of administrative back-and-forth, EPA denied Landmark's request for expedited processing.

The lawsuit was filed almost immediately because, Landmark officials explained to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, EPA has a history of destroying documents and email correspondence concerning politically sensitive issues.

As a result, Landmark "is concerned that the records requested in the instant FOIA request may likewise not be adequately protected fromdestruction or concealment," the non-profit legal assistance group said in its filing.

Litigation on FOIA lawsuits can be long, tedious and costly, but Landmark has engaged EPA in this manner in the past and won. So odds are the present Landmark litigation won't go away any time soon. A link to the Landmark lawsuit is here.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

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