An Obama administration official in October 2010 suggested to then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson that she thank an independent U.S. energy regulator for comments he made to a reporter.
Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, now wants to know whether that exchange was emblematic of collusion between Jackson and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.
“It appears that you may have allowed political consideration to impact FERC’s public position on the expected impact of EPA’s impending regulations,” Vitter of Louisiana, said today in a letter to Wellinghoff.
The EPA has proposed regulations to reduce pollution, which may force some power plants to close. The FERC, an independent agency, is responsible for overseeing the reliability of the nation’s electric grid, a network of generators and power lines. Vitter and other lawmakers have said the EPA’s rules could damage the grid’s ability to function effectively.
While EPA regulations may cause the closure of some coal plants, “it doesn’t mean that they can’t be dealt with,” Wellinghoff said in an Oct. 26, 2012 report in Politico.
“Administrator, you might consider calling FERC Chairman Wellinghoff to thank him for his very helpful comments in this Politico story,” David McIntosh, a former adviser to Jackson, wrote in an e-mail to her later that day, according to e-mails released by Vitter’s office.
Jackson did so, and the EPA administrator and FERC chairman agreed to have meet monthly for coffee, the e-mails show. Vitter has asked Wellinghoff to provide by Sept. 19 details of his communications with administration officials on the matter.
The FERC is handling this one quietly.
“It’s FERC policy to not respond to media questions about correspondence with members of Congress,” agency spokeswoman Mary O’Driscoll said in an e-mail.