EPA Hanky-Panky With Big Oil Hinted at in Records Spat

Source: By BRITAIN EAKIN, Courthouse News Service • Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015

WASHINGTON (CN) – Environmental regulators are keeping a lid on the defective vehicle-emissions model they adopted after working with oil interests, activists claim in Federal Court.

Dubbed MOVES2014 in the complaint filed Monday, the newest federal motor vehicular emissions simulator model, support restricting ethanol content in fuel based on a study’s finding that increased ethanol increases pollutant emissions.

Challenging this view, the plaintiffs Urban Air Initiative and Energy Future Coalition contend that “ethanol reduces emissions of these pollutants.” (Emphasis in original.)
“The MOVES2014 model’s erroneous emissions estimates are a direct result of the composition of the EPAct study’s unrealistic test fuels,” the complaint states.

Signaling a possible conflict of interest, the activists note that the Environmental Protection Agency conducted the flawed study at issue with the help of “consultants from Chevron, the Southwest Research Institute and the Coordinating Research Council­.”

The American Petroleum Institute and automobile manufactures support the council, according to the complaint filed Monday.
Particularly concerning to the plaintiffs is the fact that a Chevron consultant helped design the tests that produced its newest emissions estimates, “even though Chevron manufactures and sells gasoline and the aromatic hydrocarbons in it that compete with ethanol as rival sources of octane.”

In their effort to challenge the Moves2014 model, the plaintiffs say they asked the EPA back in February to release about two dozen documents connected to the study under the Freedom of Information Act.

The states of Nebraska and Kansas have joined the groups in seeking judicial review of the MOVE2014 model, but the groups say that they “were forced to file an opening brief with few specific details about the unusual circumstances surrounding the design of the EPAct study” because the EPA has refused to disclose the records they seek.
“Records concerning the agency’s reliance on outside consultants from the oil industry will be directly relevant to rebutting the agency’s claimed expertise,” the complaint says.

The EPA allegedly told the activists in March that an initial search of their records request turned up 83,000 possible records, with a cost of $24,000.
After the plaintiffs narrowed their request, per the EPA’s suggestions, the agency responded again in April, according to the complaint. The new request allegedly yielded 36,000 records with a price-tag of $18,000, which the plaintiffs say they agreed to pay.

When the agency said it would need until February 2015 to fulfill the request, it claimed that some of the documents were “unindexed paper records,” which would take significantly longer to find, according to the complaint.

So far, the agency has allegedly handed over three documents.

The EPA has said it won’t make the February 2016 deadline either, however, because of the “magnitude and complexity of the request,” according to the complaint
For the plaintiffs, time is of the essence since their reply brief in the court challenge is due on Oct. 14.

The EPA could not be immediately reached for comment.