POLITICS

Watchdog group seeks FOIA records on nonprofit EPA ‘bullied’ out of contract

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Watchdog,Michal Conger,EPA

Environmental Protection Agency officials bullied a contractor into cutting ties with an air policy coalition designed to help states with cumbersome EPA clean air rules, the American Tradition Institute said Thursday.

ATI filed a Freedom of Information Act request for EPA emails, instant messages and text messages related to the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies and the contractor, Battelle, a Washington D.C.-based research and development nonprofit.

Unnamed EPA officials didn’t like how AAPCA helped states implement clean air rules, and the government agency pressured at least one contractor to drop its contract with the group or lose its federal contracts, according to ATI.

Battelle accordingly dropped its AAPCA contract in March, ATI said.

The loss of EPA contracts would be costly for Battelle, which was awarded $14 million for fiscal years 2012-2013 and has received $239 million since 2005, according to USASpending.gov.

“ATI is troubled by this credible allegation of ‘gangster government’ that, sadly, sounds all-too believable in the context of the past four years,” said Christopher Horner, director of litigation for ATI’s Environmental Law Center.

“As such, we look forward to learning what EPA officials said among themselves about this alleged mob-style intimidation of a private company, one more way to pressure states and advance an economically destructive agenda that was rejected by the proper, democratic process,” Horner said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, an AAPCA member, wrote a letter to Assistant EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on April 4, 2013 berating her agency’s bullying of Battelle.

TCEQ requested an explanation for the perceived “conflict of interest” the EPA claimed when pressuring Battelle to drop its AAPCA contract, and asked whether similar policies would be use to push other AAPCA contractors to cut ties with the group.

“Given the unprecedented nature of EPA’s intimidation of Battelle, we strongly believe that EPA’s position on this contract illustrates EPA’s disparate treatment of organizations that are perceived as not being politically aligned with the current administration,” wrote TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw.

“Finally, we admonish the EPA not just for bullying Battelle into withdrawing from the AAPCA contract, but also for the lack of communication with AAPCA directly. Instead of initiating a conversation regarding such a consequential decision, EPA chose to threaten our contractor with the loss of current and future contracts.”

TCEQ has not received a response to its letter.

ATI and another nonprofit, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, have also sued the EPA over alleged violation of open records acts, accusing the agency of protecting McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee for EPA administrator.

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