A report issued by EPA’s internal inspector general Wednesday raises serious questions about the scientific process EPA used to justify federal regulation of greenhouse gases emissions from about 6 million sources in the United States.
The Clean Air Act authorizes federal regulation only of substances in the air that EPA finds either cause or contribute to dangers to human health or welfare. In December 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made such findings for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which sets the stage for detailed regulations now due to go into effect in a few years,
The inspector general found EPA had violated the Data Quality Act in not verifying the reliability of the scientific data underlying its endangerment finding. This Act requires high-cost federal regulations that are also novel or controversial to be based only on the highest quality, most recent, and unbiased scientific information available.
The inspector general faulted EPA for not taking steps to be certain its climate change science, which attributes warming to human greenhouse gas emissions, was of the high quality the Act requires. The Heartland Institute cited Data Quality Act violation issues in its filings challenging the endangerment finding in 2009, as did others.
The inspector general’s report was done at the request of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla), ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe Wednesday called for immediate committee hearings and said:
This report confirms that the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed. It calls the scientific integrity of EPA’s decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding.
EPA needs to explain to the American people why it blatantly circumvented its own procedures to make what appears to be a predetermined endangerment finding.
The report vindicates challenges raised by numerous groups that the EPA endangerment finding was based on flawed science and flawed procedures, including the U.S. Chamber, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Texas, Patrick J. Michaels of Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Ohio Coal Association, Pacific Legal Foundation, Peabody Energy Company, and numerous U.S. representatives. These parties and others are now in court challenging the science set forth in the EPA’s so-called “Technical Support Document,” the basis for the endangerment finding, and the process by which the TSD was created. The report is likely to have impact in these court cases.
In issuing its endangerment finding, EPA did not do its own research or even prepare its own summary of research. Rather, it wrote the TSD, which summarizes research done most prominently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, which itself is a summary of research as of 2006.
The inspector general’s report says EPA had the choice of classifying the TSD as either “influential science information” or as a “highly influential scientific assessment” – called a “HISA” inside the Beltway. A HISA is a scientific assessment that requires heightened scientific review because it:
Could have a potential impact of more than $500 million in any year on either the public or private sector, or
Is novel, controversial, or precedent setting, or has significant interagency interest.
EPA filed court papers this month saying the agency would need to hire 230,000 more employees at a cost of $21 billion to regulate all 6 million sources in the United States. EPA now has a budget of $8.7 billion and 17,000 employees. The agency currently proposes to regulate only large sources, but is being challenged in court over this proposed restriction on grounds it can’t pick and chose among sources subject to the act. Sen. Inhofe also believes the regulations will cost $300 to $400 billion per year, raise energy prices significantly, and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Despite the huge financial impact of greenhouse gas regulation, as well as the controversy of this issue, EPA classified the TSD as “influential scientific information” but not as a HISA. EPA insisted to the inspector general this classification excused the agency from doing any peer review of the IPCC data underlying the TSD because IPCC had already done it. The inspector general said this EPA conclusion was wrongE and EPA should have verified the soundness of the IPCC peer review to make sure it met EPA’s standards: “U.S. government acceptance of the documents did not relieve EPA of its responsibility to determine whether the data met EPA’s information quality guidelines before disseminating the information.”
The inspector general also said those persons involved in the limited review EPA did perform of the TSD itself were hampered because their review time was reduced and they were not provided with copies of all relevant material. In addition, the inspector general criticized EPA for not keeping and making public the reviewers’ comments on the TSD and what steps were taken to resolve them.
Numerous irregularities have been found with IPCC data quality, most prominently those revealed by the Climategate emails and also:
These include problems with Himalayan glaciers, African agriculture, Amazon rainforests, Dutch geography, and attribution of damages from extreme weather events. More seem to turn up daily. Most of these errors stem from the IPCC’s reliance on non-peer reviewed sources.