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Will an NRDC–EPA Conflict of Interest Kill the Mercury Rulemaking?
You can be involved in one side of litigation or the other, but not both. Especially when you are a government official. Unfortunately, NRDC and EPA may have had a little difficulty grasping this basic concept also known as "conflict of interest."

Fortunately, the US Chamber of Commerce has shed some much needed sunlight on the whole issue in their comments to EPA on the mercury rulemaking. Specifically, the Chamber pointed out that the NRDC official who filed the lawsuit instigating the mercury rulemaking went on to become a senior EPA official who may well have exercised oversight responsibility for settling the lawsuit he had initiated when he was with NRDC.

The NRDC/EPA official, who is now back at NRDC, is reported to have recused himself from mercury settlement. However, questions remain about the official's role in the settlement of the lawsuit.

The Chamber's comments state that the official, "appears to have been actively involved in both sides of the litigation. This apparent level of participation appears to provide the most compelling proof..." that the NRDC/EPA official was "unable to carry out his duties in a constitutionally permissible manner, and raises the possibility that EPA may be required to nullify the settlement agreement and the December 14, 2000, finding and recoup any settlement amounts improperly paid to NRDC."

The Chamber has called for a full investigation of the apparent conflict of interest. A senior Chamber regulatory official has been quoted as saying, that any "evidence of impropriety could open up a Pandora's box into the relationship between the NRDC and the EPA."

Sounds to Winston like the situation is less a Pandora's box that is best kept shut than a can of worms which needs to be opened.

  • Click to read U.S. Chamber of Commerce comments.

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