The EPA is being investigated for allegedly violating a ban on federal agencies from using climate-change deniers as lawyers.
The agency is also being sued by environmental groups who say they’ve been wrongly denied access to information about the EPA’s legal arguments in the case.
The Environmental Protection Agency is being accused of failing to disclose its legal position in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Center For Competitive Politics.
The NRDC and Center for Competitive Politics said they received emails from EPA lawyers on February 6 that they say contained an “explicit and detailed list of all legal arguments” the agency had made in its legal arguments for why it should continue to sue the Sierra Club and other environmental groups over climate-related litigation.
“It was a list of documents that clearly did not reflect what the agency claimed to have learned through extensive internal review,” said NRDC senior counsel John Carlin in a statement.
The list of arguments contained “an explicit and detailed description of the legal reasoning the agency’s lawyers have used to reject the Sierra Society’s allegations of a lack of evidence that the EPA is violating its own policies,” Carlin continued.
The EPA was also asked to produce documents “to support its claims of a legal conflict of interest.”
It is not clear whether the agency was responding to the NRDC request, and it is not immediately clear whether any of the documents the EPA provided in response to the letter will be used as evidence in the court case.
It is unclear what specific documents the NRDS has obtained, and if the agency plans to produce them.
The legal conflict-of-interest list was provided to the Sierra Campaign and other groups in response a request for documents that included documents submitted by the EPA to a federal court that were later deemed “exempt from disclosure” because they were not part of an internal review of the agency.
The document was first published by The Hill on February 16, and was subsequently republished by the NRDB.
“The EPA has repeatedly claimed that it is acting within the law to protect the public and our environment,” said Carlin.
“EPA’s actions undermine the public’s confidence in the EPA.
If the EPA wants to protect itself from a legal claim that it has violated its own law, it should turn over documents that refute these claims.”
The EPA has not responded to Ars’ request for comment.
The Sierra Club filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2016, saying the agency failed to follow the agency-wide “law enforcement policy” in response and refused to provide the Sierra Clubs with documents it said were part of the internal review.
The ACLU, meanwhile, filed an ethics complaint in November 2016 alleging that the agency has used a false accounting of the number of people who have been fired by the agency as evidence of its failure to follow its own “lawful policy.”
The Sierra Campaign has been critical of the EPA for not releasing the full documents requested by the Sierra Action, the legal group that filed the complaint.
The documents have not been released in the past because the agency said they would violate its nondisclosure agreements.