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EPA Chief encourages ‘shell shocked’ climate faithful in wake of SCOTUS slap down: ‘Keep the faith’


Emails show a bloodied but unbowed EPA after rule freeze

Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter

Greenwire: Friday, June 3, 2016

Six minutes past midnight on Feb. 10 — five hours after the Supreme Court stayed President Obama’s signature climate change rule — a U.S. EPA assistant administrator expressed shock in an email to her colleagues in the Office of Air and Radiation.

“Can’t believe this,” Lori Stewart wrote to acting air chief Janet McCabe and Joe Goffman, the air office’s associate assistant administrator and senior counsel.

Emails between top EPA officials after the high court’s surprise decision to stay the Clean Power Plan, obtained by E&E through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal both disappointment and a dogged determination to move forward on the rule after the Supreme Court’s unprecedented decision to stay the regulation.

In the days after the stay was announced, the rule’s supporters sent emails of encouragement to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other agency officials.

“Thinking of you today — hang in there,” Cheryl LaFleur, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told McCarthy on Feb. 10.

“Very thoughtful statement — thank you!” McCarthy replied.

Wrote Heather Zichal, former deputy assistant to Obama for energy and climate change, in a Feb. 11 email to McCabe: “I know it’s been a rough week. Just wanted you to know that I’m thinking about you.”

EPA officials and their supporters cheered the news that a number of states would continue working on the Clean Power Plan despite the stay.

Zichal ended her email to McCabe on an up note: “We went to bed on Tuesday knowing about the stay and concerned that we’d lose people on implementing CPP — and we went to bed Wednesday knowing that we are in exactly the same place we were before the ruling.”

McCabe’s reply: “That is EXACTLY right!” She added, “We’re making gallons of lemonade.”

Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell wrote in a Feb. 12 email to McCabe: “I imagine that you must feel shell shocked right now. I know I do. I wanted you to know that we will do everything we can to keep progress moving while the litigation is pending, and to influence the outcome of the ruling on the merits.”

McCabe told him, “Keeping the momentum — of which there is a lot — moving is critical, and a lot of entities, including states and utilities, are speaking up to say so,” and she thanked Kimmell for his efforts.

Staff circulated news and press releases about states that would continue or halt planning for the rule.

“Very cool,” McCarthy wrote on Feb. 10 in response to a press release from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announcing his state would continue working on the rule.

In a Feb. 11 email, McCabe wrote “Think how remarkable it is to have even three states (VA, CO and now PA) voluntarily say they are going to move forward on a federally required program that is stayed — really, I’m not sure that’s ever happened before.”

In a Feb. 15 email, Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin wrote that he heard from Maryland officials that their state would also keep up work on the rule.

A Delaware official, Philip Cherry, also wrote to EPA after the stay was issued saying the state intended to continue working on a plan to comply with the rule. “We wanted to be sure EPA knew of our intentions, and our support for the CPP overall,” he wrote.

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