INSIGHT: US EPA climate rules face new peril – from within

29 September 2011 17:09  [Source: ICIS news]

By Joe Kamalick

New challenge to EPA GHG mandate from EPA itselfWASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) broad array of rules to limit and reduce the nation’s emissions of greenhouse gases has come under a new and perhaps fatal attack – from within the EPA itself.

An internal investigation at the EPA revealed on Wednesday that the agency failed to meet its own scientific requirements when it ruled in late 2009 that greenhouse gases pose a risk to human health and must be regulated.

In a 100-page study, the EPA’s inspector general said that the agency failed to comply with its own scientific scrutiny standards and did not obtain adequate peer review of the research and data cited by EPA as the basis for its so-called “endangerment finding” in December 2009.

In that finding, the agency held that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) generated by human activity are the cause of global warming and, as such, pose a risk to human health and the nation’s environment.

Using that finding as legal grounds under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA has issued a number of regulations and restrictions to halt and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by US industries, including refiners, petrochemical producers, downstream chemical makers and electric utilities, among many others.

Industry argues that the EPA’s many climate rules will drive US electricity costs much higher and force the closure of many production facilities and a resulting loss of jobs.

The endangerment finding and resulting regulations, strongly opposed by the chemicals industry and other manufacturers, also are being challenged in multiple lawsuits pending in federal courts.

The EPA inspector general’s report was likely to play a role in those suits and ongoing inquiries among Republicans on Capitol Hill about the validity of EPA’s climate change-related regulations.

(The US energy, refining and chemicals industries' major trade groups were asked to comment on the inspector general's report, but they declined because each of them is a plaintiff in one or another of the more than 75 lawsuits pending against the EPA's greenhouse gases regulations.)

“This report confirms that the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased and flawed,” said Senator James Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma), who had asked for the inspector general investigation in April 2010.

Inhofe, the leading Senate critic of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theories, said that the 16-month investigation and report “calls the scientific integrity of EPA’s decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding”.

He called for immediate hearings by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has oversight responsibility for EPA and on which Inhofe serves as the top-ranking Republican member.

“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,” Inhofe said.

“The endangerment finding is no small matter,” Inhofe said on releasing the EPA inspector general’s report.

“Global warming regulations imposed by the Obama-EPA under the Clean Air Act will cost American consumers $300bn [€222bn] to $400bn a year, significantly raise energy prices, and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said. 

Inhofe also was sharply critical of recently announced EPA plans to hire 230,000 new staffers and spend an additional $12bn to implement its various greenhouse gases restrictions – what he termed an “absurd result”.

“And all of this economic pain is for nothing,” he added, noting that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has conceded in hearings before the Environment and Public Works Committee that her agency’s multiple greenhouse gases rules will have no affect on the climate.  

Senator John Barrasso (Republican-Wyoming), who also serves on the Senate environment panel, also called for immediate Senate hearings on the inspector general report and EPA’s endangerment finding.

“Throughout the past two and a half years, the EPA has used its ‘endangerment finding’ as a reason to roll out red tape that destroys jobs across America,” Barrasso said.

“EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has regularly assured Congress and the American people that its finding is based on sound scientific practices,” he said, adding: “It is clear we’ve all been repeatedly misled.”

“The endangerment finding was based on political expediency - not scientific standards,” he said.

Because Democrats hold a slim majority in the US Senate, the Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, controls the panel’s work and what hearings will be held.

However, the EPA’s climate rules also have come under fire from Democrats in the Senate, so observers suggest that Boxer might not be able to avoid holding a hearing on the EPA inspector general’s critical report.

For its part, EPA was quick to blast the inspector general’s report.

“We strongly disagree with the inspector general’s findings,” the agency said in a statement.

In a key item among the investigation’s findings, EPA was said to have failed to test the validity of the outside scientific or technical information used by the agency to support its endangerment finding.

That has been a major point of challenge among members of Congress and others who oppose the EPA’s greenhouse gases regulations. Critics have argued that under the Clean Air Act and federal administrative proceedings requirements, EPA was supposed to conduct its own scientific research on the question of anthropogenic global warming.

In its December 2009 endangerment finding and supporting documents, the EPA said it relied heavily on information in reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), data that has been challenged by several members of Congress and other critics.

In responding to the inspector general’s criticism and in defence of the IPCC research, EPA said that since its endangerment finding of December 2009, “the vast body of peer reviewed science that EPA relied on to make its determination has undergone further examination by a wide range of independent scientific bodies [and] all of those reviews have upheld the validity of the science”.

EPA officials almost certainly will have an opportunity to defend that point in hearings before Congress and in developing court cases.

($1 = €0.74)

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.

Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.

Printer Friendly

Get access to breaking chemical news as it happens.
ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)
ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX). Download the free tabular data and a chart of the historical index

Related Articles