INSIGHT: States join industry, Congress in attacking EPA on CO2

18 February 2010 16:56  [Source: ICIS news]

US climate battle moves to federal appeals courtBy Joe Kamalick

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Texas and Virginia this week joined a formidable phalanx of trade groups to bombard the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with petitions and lawsuits challenging the agency’s plan to cut US emissions of greenhouse gases.

Fuelled in part by mounting disclosures of at least sloppy research - and possible criminal collusion - underlying climate change science once considered “settled”, the two states said they want EPA to start over and conduct a solid, verifiable scientific evaluation of whether greenhouse gases (GHG) pose a health hazard that warrants regulation under the Clean Air Act.

In petitions filed with the US appellate court in the District of Columbia and the EPA itself, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli charged that the agency “acted in an arbitrary and capricious fashion” in issuing its controversial endangerment finding on 7 December last year.

In that ruling, the EPA held that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases pose a risk to human health by causing global warming and therefore are subject to regulation, mandatory limits and reductions under the Clean Air Act.

In the 200-page technical document supporting its endangerment finding for greenhouse gases, EPA specifies that it relied heavily on the findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the basis for its decision to regulate those emissions.

The IPCC reports contend that warming of earth’s atmosphere has been consistent in the decades since the end of World War II, that it is continuing and that human activity is likely the cause of those atmospheric temperature gains.

But Cuccinelli contends that leaked e-mails from scientists at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK have fatally undermined both the data and conclusions of IPCC reports.

In relying on IPCC reports, said Cuccinelli, “EPA substantially ceded its obligation to make a judgement on the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions” when, as required by the Clean Air Act and other US regulatory statutes, EPA should have conducted its own scientific assessment.

“There are significant issues with the EPA basing much of its endangerment finding on IPCC reports,” said the Virginia attorney general.

In addition to what he termed the IPCC reports’ questionable reliability, methodologies and analyses, Cuccinelli said that “The IPCC reports were produced without regard to US data standards and thus lack the transparency and data quality standards that the EPA should be demanding in the reports it bases its endangerment findings on.”

“The EPA was driven by political concerns and used questionable scientific reports to reach an outcome dictated by politics,” he said.

“We cannot allow unelected bureaucrats with political agendas to use falsified data to regulate American industry and to drive our economy into the ground,” Cuccinelli added.

He also argued that in ostensibly acting in the interests of Americans’ health and welfare, the EPA ignored the much greater harm and economic damage that the agency’s endangerment finding would impose on the nation and its citizens.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also challenged the validity of EPA’s endangerment finding due to the agency’s reliance on what he termed flawed, manipulated and corrupted data in the IPCC reports.

“With billions of dollars at stake, EPA outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation to a scandal-plagued international organization that cannot be considered objective or trustworthy,” Abbott said, referring to the IPCC.

In his petitions to the appellate court and to EPA, Abbott charged that “Prominent climate scientists associated with the IPCC were engaged in an ongoing, orchestrated effort to violate freedom of information laws, exclude scientific research and manipulate temperature data.”

“In light of the parade of controversies and improper conduct that has been uncovered, we know that the IPCC cannot be relied upon for objective, unbiased science - so EPA should not rely upon it to reach a decision that will hurt small businesses, farmers, ranchers and the larger Texas economy,” he said.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Cuccinelli of Virginia said that other state attorneys general are likely to join in the petitions already filed by his state and Texas.  “Efforts are being made to get other states to join us,” he said.

The barrage of lawsuits and petitions against the EPA endangerment finding come as members of Congress from both parties have moved legislation that would bar the agency from regulating greenhouse gases.

Cuccinelli indicated that while he supports those congressional efforts, even if Congress does bar such regulation, Virginia likely will pursue its legal challenges to the agency and its endangerment finding.

“I certainly support those efforts in Congress,” Cuccinelli said, “but they don’t get to the underlying question, the flawed scientific and environmental questions that underlie the endangerment finding.”

“This is a true mess that has been years in the making,” the attorney general added, saying that the scientific examination of global warming theory must start anew with raw data.

Between the bipartisan legislation in Congress seeking to block EPA’s endangerment finding, the industry and trade group lawsuits and now the opening of a third front by state challenges, prospects for substantive US action to impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions look decidedly chilly.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect
Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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