EPA Heavily Redacts Official’s Recusal Information

The Biden Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has released selected, often heavily redacted records pertaining to the conflicts and recusals for Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, and Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation (i.e., “climate”), Joe Goffman.

The recusal statement is notable for what it does and does not include. As for the redactions, they appear to be heavy-handed given past EPA practice. The refusal in full to release draft recusals appears to be an improper withholding of the “back-and-forth” known to be subject to release.

Readers may recall Energy Policy Advocate’s amicus brief in State of New York et al., v EPA, which revealed Goffman’s role consulting for progressive attorneys general on particular regulatory matters presently before USEPA, and under Goffman’s present remit. For example, the scheme to use the “NAAQS” regime to sneak in what the Wall Street Journal called “Biden’s ‘Back Door’ Climate Plan”.

There is no mention of any such work or recusal in what USEPA did release…including the recusal statement (it seems that learning what the drafts contain will require litigation). As such, these records sharpen the question — increasingly appropriate for Biden’s climate “all-star” team — of what Goffman disclosed about his prior work to his ethics officer(s) and when he he disclosed it.

The release is timely, incomplete though it may be. Appointees can remain in an “Acting” capacity for a limited number of days. There is scuttlebutt that the Biden White House intends to game the law and calendar to keep Goffman in place as “Acting” AA for as long as possible to put off or even avoid subjecting him to the scrutiny/accountability of the confirmation process.

The “Back Door Climate Plan” and the past consulting with AGs adverse to USEPA in litigation on matters in Goffman’s portfolio may well be two reasons for that.

In an interview last week with Politico — he is getting around these days (and ducking the same question, as well as at least one question about the NAAQS scheme) — Goffman dodged a question whether he expects a change in his status as only one of two confirmable USEPA appointees about whom the White has yet to produce paperwork.

Do you want to be nominated to be the assistant administrator for air and radiation?

I haven’t thought about that in quite a while. I’m extremely content with what I’m doing now on a day-to-day basis.

The recusal letter and what it contains — as well as what it does not — seems likely to be an issue in the event the Biden Administration seeks to formalize Mr. Goffman’s role and subject him to the required accountability. Given the increasingly obvious reluctance to facilitate congressional oversight and exploration of these activities, presumably the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee plans to schedule a hearing on its own.

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