New House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) drew attention last week when he solicited advice from a number of corporations, trade groups and organizations about federal regulations covering a variety of issues. A number of energy companies, manufacturers were on the list that are likely to focus on regulations from the Environmental Protetion Agency in their response. The letter raised some eyebrows in DC, of course. Interest groups looking to influence regulations is certainly not uncommon, nor is it outside of the norm here for lawmakers to solicit input from affected parties. But rarely is there such a clear call for regulated industries to set out a list of demands.
On Friday, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) made an appeal for Issa to release all the letters he sent out. An Issa spokesperson tells The Hill that the congressman will make public all the responses he receives—which is certainly good news for transparency.
The Hill also tracked down a full list of those who received Issa's letter. The list includes a number of companies and trade groups with a keen interest in environment and energy issues: American Petroleum Institute, American Chemistry Council, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Murray Energy Corp., Edison Electric Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, National Mining Association, among others. There were also a few ideological think-tanks on the list, including the stridently conservative Heritage Foundation and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Yet I'm less troubled by the list of companies he sent the letter to then I am by what it is lacking, which demonstrates an inherent bias to the kinds of companies and groups that would want to weaken regulations. There was only one group on the list that I would solidly classify as a non-partisan organization specifically focused on energy and environment issues, which is Resources for the Future. And some of the companies listed have actually advocated for new regulations on issues like climate change. But the list didn't include any environment or public health advocacy groups, which which would provide quite a different perspective on regulations. An honest and objective evaluation of regulations, if one were interested in that, would certainly require casting a wider net.