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GOP probes environmental group's influence over EPA on carbon emissions rule

US Capitol Power Plant in Washington, DC, on August 15 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans in the House and Senate have launched an investigation into whether a major environmental group colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency to help write a controversial carbon emissions rule outside the normal, open regulatory process.

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are working together on the investigation, and sent letters Tuesday to the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council to ask for more information.

Power plants like this one will have to curb their carbon emissions under a new EPA rule. Republicans are asking for information about how the rule was developed, including details about the involvement of an environmental group. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN

"According to recent news reports, it appears that NRDC played an outsized role in drafting EPA's proposed regulations for carbon emissions from existing power plants," the letter charged.

Their letter also said the NRDC appears to have helped shape key EPA decisions, and allowed the environmental group to "achieve its own private agenda."

"Such collusive activities provide the NRDC, and their financial backers, with an inappropriate opportunity to wield the broad powers of the executive branch," it said. "Such unprecedented access also violates the due process principles found in the Administrative Powers Act."

GOP members cited a July 6 New York Times story that said the NRDC played a significant role in developing the carbon emissions rule for existing power plants.

Republicans have opposed the rule, which was formally announced in early June, as one that would force power plants to raise electricity prices to pay for their new carbon emissions requirements. The GOP says the rule would therefore impose a huge economic burden on the poor, and stifle job creation.

Democrats have supported that rule as one that's needed to ensure safe air. When announcing it, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said if nothing is done "temperatures could rise 10 degrees and seas could rise by 4 feet."

The GOP letter cited a Senate Republican report that said the NRDC "has a reputation of placing high level staff in the Obama administration who then act as agents of their former employer." It said that goes against the intent of the regulatory process, which is supposed to be clear and open as rules are developed.

"[W]e are alarmed that EPA pushed a rule that was drafted behind closed doors by powerful Washington lawyers and lobbyists at the NRDC," they wrote.

The letter asked the EPA for all documents and communications between it and the NRDC related to the proposed rule, and all similar information related to another decision related to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which the EPA ultimately rejected.

In a separate letter to the NRDC, Republicans asked for similar documents. In both cases, Republicans asked for all documents to be provided by September 16.

Read the letter to the EPA here:

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