Long-stalled EPA air nominee reports “potential” ethics lapse

Long-stalled EPA air nominee reports “potential” ethics lapse

  • April 10, 2023

GREENWIRE | The Biden administration’s pick to lead an EPA office key to advancing climate change rules has disclosed a possible ethics violation, which could prove to be another obstacle on his already difficult path toward confirmation.

Joseph Goffman, EPA’s acting air chief, informed the agency’s inspector general of a possible breach of ethics requirements, records obtained by E&E News show.

EPA officials won’t discuss specifics of the incident, which has attracted Republican attention while Goffman’s wait for Senate confirmation as head of the Office of Air and Radiation clocks past a year. The stakes of having a Senate-confirmed air chief in place have only risen as EPA pumps out regulation after regulation in recent weeks, including proposed standards on particulate matter, tailpipe emissions limits and the pending release of power plant carbon rules.

Goffman’s Harvard ties may be behind the possible ethics foible he reported to the IG office. Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog group that has targeted Biden administration officials, released emails showing Goffman encouraged an EPA aide to schedule a meeting with school officials after one reached out to him in 2021.

Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, believes the incident referenced in Capito’s written question was the same one uncovered in the emails his group released.

“There certainly was, at a minimum, a breakdown in the screening process when he recommended that he and subordinates accept a meeting invitation from officials at Harvard, his former employer,” said Chamberlain, who also was a Trump administration official at the Department of Education.

The organization has filed three ethics complaints against Goffman. Two of those focus on his contact with Harvard employees during his EPA service. The latest, sent last month, centers on Goffman’s alleged financial conflicts of interest.

Chamberlain said someone of Goffman’s stature and government experience should be aware of ethics rules.

“We believe that, in the self-proclaimed most ethical administration in history, officials should not just be able to ignore the rules until they get caught and only then change behavior,” Chamberlain said. “The bar should be set much higher than that.”

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