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Earthjustice Protests Government's Secret Settlement Talks

EPA asks court to deny environmentalists' request to participate in Agency's closed-door meetings with diesel industry
February 22, 2002
Washington, DC — 
Earthjustice today called the Environmental Protection Agency's opposition to environmentalist participation in the agency's settlement talks with the diesel industry, "a clear message that this administration is trying to scuttle vital public health protections out of the public eye." The subject of the negotiations is a key air pollution regulation that both EPA and the President last year claimed to support. Environmentalists suspect that the agency's apparent intention to settle with industry through secret meetings reveals a backroom deal in the works in which public health protections are going to be bargained away.

"Just this week the President expressed concern about governments that are 'closed and not transparent,'" said Howard Fox of Earthjustice, attorney for several public health and environmental organizations who have opposed industry's claims by intervening in the suits. "Open government means access not just for polluters, but also for the public that is forced to breathe pollution."

EPA announced Tuesday that it was seeking a postponement of oral argument scheduled for next week on key portions of regulations requiring cleanup of deadly diesel emissions, pending settlement discussions between EPA and industry plaintiffs. Earthjustice, which has intervened in the suit on behalf of American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and US Public Interest Research Group, filed a motion to be included in those talks. EPA countered with an opposition asking that the agency be allowed to continue excluding them. EPA claims it should be left up to the agency to decide whether to let environmentalists into the room during talks with industry, or whether to update them later.

"Hearing EPA's after-the-fact 'spin' on what happened during settlement talks is no substitute for being in the room when the agency is actually talking with industry," said Fox.

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