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GAO Study Contradicts EPA Testimony

A new study by the General Accounting Office contradicts the Bush administration's claims that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule changes would not jeopardize lawsuits filed against electric utilities during the Clinton administration, the Associated Press reported. The study backs up an earlier report by Public Citizen.

The rule changes issued by EPA and the White House could result in reduced fines and pollution controls in some of the Clean Air Act enforcement lawsuits, the GAO said. The revisions to the EPA's "New Source Review" program make it easier for utilities to make improvements to their facilities without having to install additional pollution controls.

Three U.S. senators asked the EPA inspector general to investigate the administration's claims that the changes would not have an impact on the pending lawsuits, which were expected to cut power plant pollution by half. In testimony before Congress about the proposed rule change, a high-ranking EPA official misled lawmakers about its impact on those lawsuits.

Posted 10-23-2003 10:47 AM EDT


GAO Faults Murky Rulemaking Process

Much of the White House's efforts to put its pro-business stamp on federal regulations is kept out of the public eye, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reported, citing a government study being circulated on Capitol Hill. Because informal talks between federal agencies that craft regulations and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) often aren't well documented, the rulemaking process often is unclear, according to the General Accounting Office, which acts as the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO also found that OMB steers regulations in the direction favored by industry lobbyists after meeting with them, the Journal said.

John Graham, head of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was singled out in the report because of his powerful influence and his penchant for changing rules to make them more palatable to industry.

Posted 10-22-2003 3:37 PM EDT


Nothing to See Here

The U.S. Justice Department ended more than a year of stonewalling by releasing an independent consultant's assessment of the agency's efforts to ensure diversity within the workplace, The Washington Post  reported. Reporters had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the study. Now, it's all there in black and white for anyone to see -- literally. About half of the 186-page report by KPMG Consulting was blacked out by agency officials because FOIA allows them to keep secret "pre-decisional deliberative information," the Post said. Senior officials basically cut out the negative stuff but allowed this nugget: The department's attorney workforce is more diverse than the U.S. legal workforce.

"The bureaucracy run amok," one political appointee told the Post in explaining why so much of the report, including a section on "Recommendations," was redacted. The Post estimates that the study cost taxpayers a few hundred thousand dollars. Too bad they don't have X-ray vision, because reading between the lines won't work.

Posted 10-22-2003 2:22 PM EDT


9/11 Panel to Bush Administration: On Guard

The independent commission probing government failures before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks served notice to the Bush administration that it will go after agencies that resist turning over documents and other information, The Washington Post reported. That notice came in the form of a subpoena aimed at the Federal Aviation Administration. It's the first one issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a 10-member bipartisan panel that the Bush administration opposed.

"What we have here is a very angry commission," Chairman Thomas Kean (R), the former governor of New Jersey, said to the Post. "This is a sign that we are not loath to use a subpoena on other agencies if we need to. ... Hopefully this will tell other agencies that haven't complied with our requests to get on the stick and do so."

Posted 10-16-2003 10:09 AM EDT


Transparency Lacking in Iraq Contracts

Democrats in Congress, worried about cronyism and war profiteering, signaled they plan to carefully scrutinize Bush's $20 billion budget request for the reconstruction of Iraq, according to the New York Times. No sense throwing money into a dark hole, especially if the administration's corporate cronies are the only ones waiting at the bottom.

"We don't see transparency today," said Senate minority leader Tom Daschle. "We don't know where the money is going. We're very concerned about profiteering. And we would prohibit profiteering, and we will make the effort to do so."

Posted 10-14-2003 4:27 PM EDT

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