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Washington Bureau notes

Washington Bureau notes fo Sunday, May 4, 2014.
by Chris Casteel Published: May 4, 2014

Before lawmakers put a moratorium on the process, a whole earmark industry had developed in Washington, as lobbyists worked for towns, universities, Indian tribes and private companies seeking pork barrel projects. Lawmakers who participated in the process — and not all did — essentially were given a chunk of money to allot to their favored projects.

According to the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, earmarking reached a record $29 billion in 2006.

In 2010, House Republicans decided they would not request earmarks; since they took control of the House in 2011, their position put an end to the practice. Senate Republicans also voted for a moratorium, and the process, as it existed for decades, has pretty much disappeared.

Rep. Lankford who was among those voting to ban the practice just after being elected to his first term, was one of the first to sign Coburn’s letter last week.

Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, said his group would send letters to lawmakers urging them to support the effort.

Some have been claiming that reviving the earmarking process would help break congressional gridlock, Schatz said.

“If doling out special-interest pork at a time when there is a $17.5 trillion national debt hanging over our collective heads is the only way to get Congress back to work on behalf of taxpayers, members have sunk even lower than their approval numbers, and that would be quite an achievement,” Schatz said.

Inhofe says EPA delayed key pollution rule

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is expecting to hear from Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy soon about whether the agency deliberately delayed a new pollution rule for power plants so it wouldn’t hurt Democrats running for election this year.

Inhofe said he recently discovered that the EPA delayed the bureaucratic process for implementing the rule, known as New Source Performance Standards. And Inhofe’s office pointed last week to a major discrepancy in what McCarthy told a Senate committee early this year.

At an Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing in January, Inhofe asked McCarthy whether the agency had submitted the proposed pollution rule immediately to the Federal Register for publication. She said the agency had submitted the proposal “as soon as it was released” Sept. 20.

Inhofe followed up on McCarthy’s answer by contacting the Federal Register, which told him that the proposed rule hadn’t been submitted until 66 days after it was made public.

The significance of the delay, Inhofe said, is that it allows the EPA to wait until after the November elections to finalize a rule that could hamper power generation and raise prices for electricity generated by coal.

Inhofe sent a letter to McCarthy last week with several questions and requests for documents, including possible correspondence between the EPA and White House budget office about the power plant rule.

Inhofe and other Obama administration critics have also charged that the latest delay in a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline was politically motivated because of the mid-term elections.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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