EPA Dismisses Congressional Oversight Request On Appointee’s Chinese Ties

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is stonewalling Republican lawmakers on a request for documents and communications between Deputy Administrator for Science Policy Dr. Chris Frey and his prior Chinese employer.

Frey, a Trump critic and former employee of the agency under both the Obama and the Trump administration before he was fired in 2018, captured attention on Capitol Hill when he returned to the EPA in a senior-level position without quitting his job at a Hong Kong university. Frey’s resume also includes prior work for the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department.

“Instead of resigning his position with [Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)], he is only taking a leave of absence, indicating Dr. Frey intents to return to work for HKUST after his service in the Biden administration,” wrote a group of five House Republicans in a September letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “At a time when the Biden administration is pushing for costly climate change ‘solutions’ that benefit China, it raises questions about why a senior EPA official has such strong ties to China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”

The GOP lawmakers on the House Subcommittee on Environment gave the administrator a Sept. 21 deadline to respond. A spokesman in New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell’s office confirmed to The Federalist Thursday the agency has so far dismissed the request with no response.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced Frey’s nomination to serve as assistant administrator of the Office of Research and Development, seven months after his return to the EPA in February. The office has not had a Senate-confirmed chief in nearly a decade.

“The Biden administration has always shown little regard for America’s energy independence and national security,” Herrell told The Federalist. “Staffing the highest levels of the EPA with individuals closely tied to China continues these twin failures.”

The government watchdog Protect the Public Trust (PPT) was the first group to unearth Frey’s May 11 ethics recusal statement through a Freedom of Information Act request with the findings made public in August. EPA leadership, the group wrote, permitted Frey to maintain an affiliation with HKUST in an unpaid status “despite the Department of Justice’s determination that such relationships are akin to working for a foreign government.”

“It’s generally expected that political appointees completely break ties with private entities and foreign governments in order to serve the American public,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain, characterizing the university as “an arm of the Chinese government.”

While Hong Kong operated for decades as a semi-autonomous region distanced from Beijing, Chinese leaders have stripped the territory of much of its independence with an aggressive crackdown since 2019.

Larry Behrens, the communications director for the energy non-profit Power the Future, said lawmakers had all the more incentive to raise questions about Chinese influence within the nation’s pre-eminent environmental agency as the Biden administration’s energy agenda focuses on ramping up production of fossil fuels abroad while suppressing it at home.

“These leaders are doing the right thing by asking important questions because we deserve to know if there is suspicious influence impacting public officials,” Behrens told The Federalist. “There is no doubt many of the policies put forth by the Biden administration, and decisions by the EPA in particular, appear to promote foreign energy industries at the expense of our workers here at home.”

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