Jeffords Delays Subpoena of EPA Documents

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(Host) Vermont Senator James Jeffords has given the Bush administration more time to hand over documents on its plan to ease regulation of coal burning power plants.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) The White House and some members of Congress have sparred for months over documents relating to energy and environmental policy. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has gone to court to get records and emails on Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy plan. And Jeffords, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, has threatened to subpoena documents from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The records the committee is after relate to a recent proposal by the Bush administration to relax air pollution controls on older, coal-fired power plants. Late Wednesday the EPA turned over some of the records. Jeffords told the Committee that it took six months for the agency to respond:

(Jeffords) “Today I am disappointed to observe that it has taken a subpoena for the Agency to take a congressional request seriously. This Committee takes its oversight role seriously and we expect to receive timely, full and complete answers to our questions and the documents requested from the agencies in our jurisdiction.”

(Dillon) But the EPA still claims that some of the documents that describe the Agency’s internal rulemaking process can’t be released. Jeffords was not pleased with the agency’s refusal. He says he’ll wait another three weeks to see what the EPA comes up with:

(Jeffords) “I would expect full production of all documents responsive to this request. I would note that the information the Agency offered us last evening is largely analytical in nature. There can be no excuse that claims of privilege prevented timely disclosure.”

(Dillon) As the document fight shows, Jeffords and his committee are squarely at odds with the administration over clean air issues. Jeffords argues that the EPA plan to relax the power plant rules threatens the environment and public health.

On Thursday, his committee approved legislation that would tighten pollution controls on generating plants. The bill would also for the first time control emissions of carbon dioxide pollution, the main gas blamed for global warming.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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