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EPA Changes Groundwater Rule After Oil Executive Complains to White House

By June 13, 2006

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The Environmental Protection Agency has backed off on a rule designed to protect groundwater near oil drilling sites and construction areas after a Texas oil executive complained to White House senior advisor Karl Rove that the rule was a hardship for oil companies, and Rove put pressure on the EPA to re-examine and relax the rule.

Texas oil executive Ernest Angelo, a strong Bush supporter, wrote a letter [pdf] to his longtime friend Karl Rove in 2002, complaining that the rule was too restrictive and telling Rove that it was causing many people in the oil industry to “"openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity."

Rove forwarded Angelo’s letter to White House environmental advisors and added a handwritten note [pdf] at the top of the letter directing one of his aides to “get a response ASAP.” Rove also assured Angelo that the White House was looking into the matter and was trying to lessen the "economic, energy and small business impacts" of the rule while addressing the environmental issues.

Environmentalists are accusing the Bush administration of pandering to oil companies and letting politics dictate environmental policy decisions that should be left to scientists and federal regulators.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Angelo welcomed the rule and can’t see what all the fuss is about.

"I'm sure that his forwarding my letter to people that were in charge of it might have had some impression on them," Angelo said. "It seems to me that it was a totally proper thing to do. I can't see why anybody's upset about it, except of course that it was effective."

The White House claims that the rule was revised as part of the standard rule-making process followed by all federal agencies, and that White House budget officials only directed the EPA to make sure the rule complied with requirements of the energy law passed by Congress in 2005.

But some members of Congress don’t see things quite that way. Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-VT) and five Senate Democrats sent a letter [pdf] to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, objecting to the rule and urging the EPA to drop modifications that make the rule less restrictive.

In the letter to Johnson, the six senators say the new rule violates the intentions of Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1985. Jeffords, a former Republican senator, dropped his affiliation with the GOP in 2001 and became an independent over fundamental disagreements with the Republican Party’s approach to public policy.

Comments

June 14, 2006 at 6:34 am
(1) Steven says:

Another example of large campaign donations money buying political rule changes.If the oil man was not polluting the water at the work sights the change would not be needed.

June 19, 2006 at 11:15 pm
(2) Ryan says:

Hopefully he drinks the water!

December 8, 2006 at 3:04 am
(3) Larry Branch says:

If the form and content of the literature are correct it appears that Mr. Angelo and Mr. Rove created an implied contract to amend EPA modifications without any other considerations. Gosh, I wish I could address the partisan actions like my father would, but, his eloquence in describing “friendships” of their nature would ensure their apologies to the Nation, the Congress, and the EPA for “manipulating” through “confidence” for gain in their endeavors to elude their responsibilities to the people.

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