US EPA denies petitions challenging greenhouse gas finding

29 July 2010 23:33  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday denied petitions challenging the agency’s 2009 decision that human-generated greenhouse gases are altering earth’s climate and endangering mankind.

The office of the Virginia attorney general said on Thursday that the EPA’s denial of its petition was “fatally flawed” and that the state’s top legal officer would respond further.

In its controversial December 2009 decision - formally known as an endangerment finding - the EPA held that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) caused by human activity are the cause of global warming and threaten the US environment and individuals’ health.

The agency said that the endangerment finding established its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate US emissions of climate-changing gases from any sources.

That decision was quickly challenged by at least two state governments and various industrial and agricultural trade groups in formal petitions to the EPA and in separate but related lawsuits in federal court.

The challengers, including Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, argued that the EPA acted in an arbitrary and capricious fashion in issuing its endangerment finding, and that scientific data cited by the agency has been called into question by the so-called “Climategate” controversy involving leaked e-mails from the UK Climate Research Unit.

But in Thursday’s ruling, the EPA dismissed the challenges filed by 10 petitioners, saying they failed to establish their claims.

“After months of serious consideration of the petitions and of the state of climate change science, EPA finds no evidence to support these claims,” the agency said.

“EPA’s review shows that climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger,” the statement said.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said that the petitions were “based on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy”.

The agency said that claims of faulty or manipulated data alleged in the leaked Climate Research Unit e-mails were invalid, and that the communications at issue were “simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues”.

The EPA also dismissed challenges to the accuracy and validity of science underlying the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on global warming, saying that the few errors in the UN panel’s extensive studies were corrected and in any event were not central to the endangerment finding.

Jackson said that claims by the petitioners that new scientific studies refute the endangerment ruling were incorrect, saying the challengers misinterpreted those studies.

Brian Gottstein, Cuccinelli’s spokesman, said the Virginia attorney general was still reviewing the EPA’s ruling denying the state’s petition and would have a full response later.

However, Gottstein indicated that Cuccinelli intended to appeal the EPA decision, saying that there is a clear error in the denial ruling.

“One thing is immediately apparent,” said Gottstein, “the reviewing court is likely to find the [petition denial] decision fatally flawed procedurally because the agency has reviewed and weighed new information without notice or comment from the public.”

In its petition, Virginia had argued that the EPA endangerment finding was in part invalid because new information disclosed after December 2009 - the Climategate e-mails - had undermined what the agency had identified as its scientific grounds for the greenhouse gas ruling.

Gottstein said that the Clean Air Act requires that in reviewing new information, the EPA is obliged to give public notice of the review and invite public comment on that information, steps that Cuccinelli says EPA failed to take.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal opponent of anthropogenic global warming theories, said on Thursday that EPA’s denial of the petitions was the product of “closed-mindedness” that ultimately would undermine the agency’s reputation and its standing in court.

In addition to Virginia’s anticipated court challenge of EPA’s denial ruling, other lawsuits contesting the agency’s endangerment finding are still pending before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. A bipartisan group of members of Congress also opposes EPA's plans to regulate greenhouse gases and is seeking to block the agency's efforts.

US business groups, including chemical manufacturers and refiners, contend that EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will trigger massive increases in energy costs and result in the "de-industrialisation" of the nation.

The EPA denial of the petitions comes as global warming advocates in the US Senate have conceded that they will not be able to pass climate change legislation this year.

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