E-bike advocates’ influence questioned

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A series of meetings between e-bike industry lobbyists and federal officials has been terminated due to legal concerns, according to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act.

The rules governing use of e-bikes in Acadia National Park has been a hot topic this year; now, pedal-assist e-bikes are allowed anywhere in the park that regular bicycles are allowed, including the carriage roads.

The “E-bike Partner and Agency Group,” which pushed for policies allowing electric bicycles on public lands, reportedly violated federal transparency requirements.

According to documents posted last week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the e-bike lobbyists met and had quarterly teleconferences with a large array of federal officials at least eight times, dating back to Sept. 14, 2017.

After a Forest Service official raised concerns about the group not complying with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), the group was disbanded in October, according to emails.

An email message from the NPS convener to the E-bike Partner Group indicates that as of Oct. 10 the group would disband. “This is to ensure that we avoid any conflict with the Federal Advisory Committee Act,” the email stated.

However, two directives from the Secretary of Interior and the National Park Service, were issued in August, while the group was still meeting. These directives allowed e-bikes on Interior lands and Park trails on the same basis as human-powered bicycles.

“Shutting down the E-bikes Group after… [the] industry had accomplished its policy goal is just like shutting the barn door after all the horses bolted,” stated Peter Jenkens, senior counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This episode indicates the pervasive industry influence over Interior Department decision-making.”

PEER filed a lawsuit with other organizations and individuals earlier this month, charging that the NPS violated FACA in instituting the rule without input from an advisory committee.

The complaint also argued that the rule allowing e-bikes was passed without an environmental impact study, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and was imposed by individuals in positions not confirmed by the Senate, as required by the National Park Service Organic Act.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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