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Green Revolving Door: Top Obama Official Joins Major Environmental Group

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Another top Obama administration official has joined a major environmental group that is being investigated by Congress for its cozy relationship with federal regulators, sparking concerns from lawmakers.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently announced that top Obama administration official Rhea Suh will become the group’s new president in January 2015, replacing current NRDC president Frances Beinecke. Beinecke has led the organization since 2006.

Suh is assistant secretary for policy, management and budget at the Interior Department. She was brought on in 2009 after working for major philanthropic foundations that have provided millions to the environmental movement. Her departure from Interior has been criticized by Republicans who see it as part of the revolving door between green groups and federal agencies.

“Ms. Suh’s transition into the political, private sector route to shut down energy development is unsurprising,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “However, I am sure that after so much rushing through the nomination process earlier this year, a handful of my colleagues on the Energy Committee must be deeply disappointed to lose Ms. Suh to the NRDC.”

Suh’s planned departure to NRDC comes as the group is grappling with congressional inquiries about its close ties to Obama administration officials and their role in crafting rules that limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Vitter and fellow Republican Rep. Darrell Issa kicked off an investigation earlier this month into NRDC’s role in crafting a major U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent from existing power plants by 2030.

Issa and Vitter began their investigation in the wake of a New York Times article detailing the outsized role NDRC played in crafting the EPA’s power plant rule and a Senate report highlighting the vast sums of money being used by eco-activists to campaign for onerous environmental rules.

The New York Times reported in July it was “Indisputable… that the Natural Resources Defense Council was far ahead of the E.P.A. in drafting the architecture of the proposed regulation.”

A report by Vitter and other Senate Republicans detailed how the Obama EPA “has been deliberately staffed at the highest levels with far-left environmental activists who have worked hand-in-glove with their former colleague.” Moreover, the foundation Suh worked for before moving to Interior are listed as major donors to environmental groups in the Senate report.

Despite criticisms from Republicans, Suh and the NRDC are excited about the move.

“It has been an unparalleled privilege to work for the President and Interior Secretaries Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell,” Suh said in a statement. “Now, I’m honored to join NRDC, our nation’s intrepid defender of clean air, safe water, and wild places.”

“Rhea has the tenacity and talent to help our movement win on climate change,” said Frances Beinecke, NRDC’s current president. “She understands that this is the greatest environmental, health and economic threat of our time, and she understands that this is the moment we can turn the tide. She will be ferocious in this fight, and I can’t wait to watch her take this on.”

According to NRDC, Suh played a major role in reorganizing the regulatory agency overseeing offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Suh also led in the development of new land conservation policies and helped create Interior’s first Chief Diversity Officer and diversity initiatives.

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