Friday, February 5, 2010

Inhofe Comments on the Next Phase of Penn State Climate Science Investigation

Senator Inhofe responded on Wednesday to Penn State's announcement concerning its investigation into possible research misconduct by Dr. Michael Mann. Penn State's internal inquiry found further investigation is warranted to determine if Dr. Mann "engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities."

Senator Inhofe said:

"I want to commend Penn State for recognizing the seriousness of the allegations leveled at Dr. Mann by launching an initial inquiry into whether he committed research misconduct. As the University moves to the next phase of its investigation, I believe the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation should also commence an investigation to examine possible violations of federal laws and policies governing taxpayer-funded research.

"The stakes involved here are enormous.  The scientific work in question is part of a larger enterprise behind federal climate change policies that will cost American consumers trillions of dollars.  So when we learn, as we did last week, that the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report included serious errors, raising questions about the integrity of its work, we need to reassure the American people that their tax dollars are supporting objective scientific research rather than political agendas."

Also listen to Inhofe discuss the Penn State investigation with Joe Kelley of KRMG by clicking here.

Link to Letter

Link here to see Inhofe's December 02, 2009 letter to the National Science Foundation 

Inhofe-Voinovich Comment on Carper-Alexander 3P Bill

Yesterday, Sen. Inhofe and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), issued a joint statement commenting on the introduction of the Carper-Alexander legislation to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and mercury emissions from America's power plants:

"The goal of combining greater regulatory certainty under the Clean Air Act with significant advances in public health and the environment is a worthy and attainable one," Senators Inhofe and Voinovich said. "We stand together today to begin a dialogue aimed at achieving that goal.  Our dialogue will build on several years of valuable discussion and analysis on the various legislative proposals dealing with power plant emissions.  We emphasize that we find significant problems with key provisions in the Carper-Alexander legislation; therefore much work is needed to reach common ground.  Yet we are hopeful that an open process drawing on input from multiple perspectives can result in bipartisan agreement on legislation to reduce power plant emissions."

Inhofe Hearing Statement: Current Science on Public Exposures to Toxic Chemicals

Senator Inhofe delivered the following statement yesterday at a hearing on the current science on public exposures to toxic chemicals:

Thank you, Chairman Lautenberg, for holding this hearing on the state of the science of human exposures to chemicals.  My understanding is that this is the first in a series of hearings leading up to a legislative debate on revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  I welcome the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the law and the science surrounding it. 

Today we will hear perspectives on scientific approaches for evaluating human exposures to chemicals.  In particular, I am interested in the discussion related to biomonitoring - one of the scientific techniques used for assessing human exposures to natural and synthetic compounds in the environment.  

I believe that biomonitoring can be a useful tool in assessing human chemical exposures.  But, biomonitoring has its limits, as it provides only information on exposure; it does not provide dose information.  Simply put, the presence of a substance in the body, at any level, cannot be interpreted to mean that adverse effects will occur.  

I hope the witnesses here today remain objective in their discussions of biomonitoring, and avoid the temptation to rely on detection as a surrogate for risk.  Misapplying biomonitoring data only serves to scare the public and, in some cases, advance political agendas.  By invoking notions of "body burden" and "chemical trespass," people who do not understand the limitations of biomonitoring are encouraged to reduce exposures to some substances that may increase, rather than decrease, their overall health risks.  A perfect example is mothers refraining from breast feeding in order to avoid feeding their babies chemicals found, or that may be found, in breast milk.  In almost all circumstances, the benefits of breast feeding exponentially outweigh any possible risks from the mere presence of a chemical in the milk.  This same advice is given to nursing mothers by public health authorities.

For over 30 years, TSCA has provided a scientifically sound framework for reporting, testing, tracking and restricting chemical substances and mixtures.  As I have stated before, I am open to the idea of modernizing the statute.  But, to the proponents of radical reform and supporters of the precautionary principle, let me be very clear: my principles for any regulatory or statutory changes to TSCA must be based on the best available science, including risk assessment; must include cost-benefit considerations; must protect proprietary information; and must prioritize reviews for existing chemicals.  Further, I will not support changes that encourage litigation, allow for activist enforcement, or that compel product substitution. 

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses here today and to the upcoming debate on how best to modernize TSCA.

Policy Beat: Obamas 2011 Budget Proposes Superfund Tax

We kick off our series on the Obama Administration's FY 2011 budget, paying special attention to those provisions affecting energy and environmental policies.  One such is the proposed reinstatement of the Superfund Tax.  The aim of the Superfund program-to clean up hazardous waste sites-is no doubt a worthy one, but the tax is punitive, its reach widespread, and its ultimate cost borne by consumers.  This probably explains why the proposed reinstatement of the tax is buried in page 175 of the budget's "Analytical Perspectives" document.

If you own a small business, take heed: the tax is assessed at a rate of 0.12 percent on corporate "alternative minimum taxable" income in excess of $2 million-regardless of whether a corporation is responsible for polluting a site.  This "corporate environmental income tax" comes on top of a 40 percent corporate tax rate that is already nearly 15 percentage points higher than most corporate rates in Europe.  And for consumers concerned about prices at the gas pump, prepare to pay more: the re-imposition of the Superfund tax would mean an excise tax of 9.7 cents per barrel on crude oil and imported petroleum products (which, incidentally, would come on top of other taxes the Administration wants to impose on the oil sector). 

So in the end, consumers pay more, competitiveness declines, all with no demonstrable improvement to the environment.  That's because, according to EPA, "responsible parties"-as they are deemed under Superfund-already pay for more than 70 percent of clean-ups.  And there's simply no basis for the activist trope that re-imposing the Superfund Tax will mean more and faster clean-ups.  Revenues from the tax do not go directly to EPA.  Moreover, the level of expenditures from the Superfund trust fund is set annually by Congress through the appropriations process-regardless of whether the tax is reinstated. 

Related:

EPA Needs to Provide Better Data to Congress to Make Superfund Program Work - GAO

In the News . . . House Ag chairman co-sponsors bid to block EPA regs

E&E News  

House Ag chairman co-sponsors bid to block EPA regs

By: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter

February 03, 2010

Link to Article  

A trio of House lawmakers yesterday introduced a bill to block U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, marking the latest in a string of bipartisan attacks against forthcoming climate rules.

The measure from Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Missouri Reps. Ike Skelton (D) and Jo Ann Emerson (R) would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gases based on their effects on global climate change.

The bill would also advance several of the farm state lawmakers' other priorities by stopping EPA from calculating land-use changes in foreign countries for determining U.S. renewable fuels policy, and broadening the definition of renewable biomass.

"It appears the clean energy bill moving through Congress is stalled," Skelton said. "Let us set that bill aside and pass this scaled-back energy legislation."

This bill, Skelton said, "represents a responsible way to move forward on energy legislation, gets the EPA under control, provides good things for American farmers and builds upon bipartisan objectives that will help curb climate change and make our nation more energy independent."

The effort comes as EPA prepares to begin regulating greenhouse gases next month with its final tailpipe standard. That rule will trigger stationary source regulations, and the agency is expected to continue crafting greenhouse gas standards for other sectors.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The bill is the latest congressional efforts to stall EPA climate rules. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is planning to seek a vote next month on a disapproval resolution that would effectively veto EPA's determination that greenhouse gases threaten human health and welfare.

In the House, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has introduced a separate bill to strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions unless it receives explicit authority to do so by Congress.

Indirect land use, biomass

In addition to blocking climate regulations, the new bill seeks to block EPA from considering greenhouse gas emissions from international "indirect" land-use changes when implementing the renewable fuel standard, or RFS.

The 2007 energy bill expanded the RFS and increased goals for the use of ethanol and other biofuels in U.S. transportation fuels, reaching 36 billion gallons a year in 2022. The standard requires EPA to assess the "lifecycle" emissions of biofuels -- weighing the emissions from growing crops, producing fuels made from them, and distributing and using the fuels.

EPA proposed last year to measure emissions from indirect land-use changes associated with biofuels -- such as land that is deforested in other countries because of increased crop growth in the United States. The agency concluded, depending on the time frames modeled, that traditional corn ethanol could have a slightly larger emissions footprint than gasoline when land-use changes are factored in.

But those draft regulations drew the ire of biofuels advocates and farm-state lawmakers -- including Peterson and Emerson -- who maintained the agency was unfair to ethanol.

Last summer, Peterson reached an agreement with the Democratic authors of energy and climate legislation to include language to bar EPA from considering including emissions from indirect land-use changes abroad for five years (E&E Daily, June 24, 2009). But that bill has languished as climate talks have stalled in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the White House completed its review of EPA's proposal for implementing the RFS earlier this week, paving the way for the agency to finalize the rule (E&ENews PM, Feb. 2).

"I'm proud to help sponsor this bill because if Congress doesn't do something soon, the EPA is going to cram these regulations through all on their own," Peterson said in a statement yesterday.

Emerson has also sought to bar EPA from measuring emissions from indirect land-use changes as part of the overall calculation of biofuels emissions. During consideration of the EPA fiscal 2010 appropriations bill last year, Emerson introduced a failed amendment that would have blocked EPA from considering the indirect emissions (E&E Daily, June 19, 2009).

The new measure would also expand the definition of what classifies as "renewable biomass" that can be used for biofuels under the RFS.

The definition largely mirrors an amendment that Peterson negotiated to include in the House-passed energy and climate bill, although language barring the use of components of federal forests and conservation areas was notably absent in the bill introduced yesterday (Greenwire, June 25, 2009).

Peterson and Skelton voted for the House climate and energy bill (H.R. 2454); Emerson voted against it.

Click here to read the bill.

In the News...Debra Saunders: So Much Wasted Green for Climate-change Talks

San Fransisco Chronicle

So Much Wasted Green for Climate-change Talks

Debra J. Saunders

Sunday, January 31, 2010 

Link to column 

It was bad enough last month watching Washington politicians merrily flying off to the U.N. climate change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen (or COP-15 for short), ostensibly to draft a global-warming treaty, when all the players knew that no meaningful pact would result and the only sure outcome was that much energy would be squandered.

Now comes the sticker shock. When CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson dug into the latest House expenses filing for the climate confab, she found that the cost for a hotel room for the delegation of 15 Democratic and six Republican members of Congress and 38 staffers was $2,200 per person per day - more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgage. In addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members flew on three military planes at an estimated cost of $168,000. Many staffers, however, flew on commercial airlines at fares ranging from $4,163 to $10,038.

The tab for the House delegation - not including the military planes - was $553,564.We still do not know the price tag for the 60-plus administration officials who, like President Obama, attended the summit. Ditto the bill for the two senators - John Kerry, D-Mass., and James Inhofe, R-Okla. - and 30-plus Senate aides.

I asked Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill about the $2,200-a-day tab. "We don't get to pick the hotel we stay in," he answered; the State Department picks hotels for congressional delegations, and it chose a five-star Marriott with a six-night minimum during the summit. Hence, the $4,406 per-room tab for a 48-hour stay. My journalist pal Ola Tedin of Ystad, Sweden, suggested, "They would have found a better deal in Malmö, Sweden," where many attendees stayed. No, I am told, the delegation worked nonstop and didn't have time for the 35-minute train ride.

As for the air fares, Hammill explained they are "government rate." Government rate means that taxpayers fork over as much as $10,000 for a flight that could be purchased online for $800. "Government rate," then, is D.C.-speak for: Money is no object.No worries on the greenhouse gases spewed to fuel the trek. The House bought "offsets" for the journey's emissions. Of course, that very act explains why so many Americans have come to doubt global warming true believers: Their great crusade is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet they globe-trot to be seen with each other and produce meaningless pieces of paper. Then they tell others that their exhaust fumes don't stink because, like sinners purchasing indulgences, they offset their vapor trail - with other people's money.

Surely the best "offset" would have been for more Democrats to stay home.And what were all those Republicans doing in Denmark? I get Inhofe parachuting into enviro territory to serve, as he likes to style himself, as a one-senator "truth squad." Spokesman Matt Dempsey noted that Inhofe "would prefer not to go" to an event he has dismissed as "the biggest party of the year," but someone had to counter COP-15's cap-and-trade agenda.

Surely some (or better yet, all) of the six GOP House members - James Sensenbrenner, Joe Barton, Fred Upton, Shelley Moore Capito, John Sullivan and Marsha Blackburn - and their 10 committee staffers could have stayed home.

It would have been a great photo op - in contrast to all those global warming enthusiasts ducking from the blizzard that they flew thousands of miles to experience - if House Republicans had held a low-carbon, low-cost Skeptics Summit in D.C., at which they announced their refusal to participate in a process that, if somehow magically successful, would be harmful to the U.S. economy.

So you have two sets of big spenders. There are the U.S. officials who were so busy being important at COP-15 that they couldn't be expected to think about saving taxpayer dollars. And the Republicans who generally opposed COP-15, but not enough to skip it.

The disconnect in this story doesn't end. Participants could have put together a nonbinding treaty to try to halve emissions in 40 years by phone or the Internet. But the circus always was more important than the cause.

And you paid for it.

You can e-mail Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

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In the News... CBS NEWS: Mistakes in Climate Report Fuel Skepticism

CBS EVENING NEWS

Mistakes in Climate Report Fuel Skepticism

Link to Article 

Link to CBS Video

(CBS)  The U.N.'s climate chief admitted Thursday that scientists made mistakes in a major study of melting glaciers in the Himalayas. It's the latest example of scientific errors in climate reports. Experts insist they don't change the overall conclusion - that climate change is real. But as CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports, they're providing ammunition for skeptics.

You know you're in trouble when you're being
spoofed on YouTube.

The subject of the spoof is Michael Mann of Penn State University, who was accused of tampering with climate data to produce his famous
hockey stick graph which shows that the rise in man-made greenhouse gasses corresponds to a rise in world temperatures.

An academic board today cleared Mann, saying his science holds up - but the damage may have already been done. (INHOFE EPW PRESS NOTE: Penn State Also Launched a Full Investigation of Mann)

The biggest splash these days in the global warming argument may not be caused by the world's melting glaciers. It may be caused by a series of gaffes by climate change scientists.

The latest one involves temperature data from weather stations in China used in global warming calculations.

The problem is that where the weather stations are located matters. One located in the city will give consistently higher temperatures than one out in the country. The allegation is the researchers used Chinese data when they really didn't know where their weather stations were. It's just a small part of a worldwide database, but it's the little mistakes that make a difference.

Those mistakes include a line in the last report by the U.N. Panel on Climate Change - the bible of climate science - which claimed glaciers in the Himalayas might disappear by the year 2035. The panel had to admit the claim was wrong and the climate change skeptics jumped in.

"Any scientist who read that figure just laughed because they knew it couldn't be true," said Patrick Michael of the Cato Institute. "There is no doubt the trust in the U.N. panel has been undermined."

That trust had already been undermined by the series of leaked emails at Britain's University of East Anglia - one of the world's big climate science centers - which seemed to show that inconvenient facts were being hidden.

It's a frustrating time for climate scientists, the vast majority of whom believe that despite what they see as small errors, the basic science of the human role in global warming remains true.

"I am concerned that it appears the whole edifice has been undermined by these couple of bricks that are flaking a bit," said Brian Hoskins a professor at Imperial College London. It's a danger, he said.

The scientists may still believe they're winning the scientific argument, but they're in danger of losing the public relations war.

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In the News...Financial Times Editorial: To Restore confidence, it should commission an independent audit of IPCC 2007 Assesment

Financial Times  

Editorial: A Himalayan gaffe

February 01, 2010

Link to Editorial

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change depends for its influence upon the confidence of the public. It can only assist policymakers if its work is seen to be based upon rigorous inquiry.

Recent events have shown the IPCC falling short of this ideal. It has been seriously shamed by the revelation that it included an unsubstantiated claim about the future disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers in its 2007 report. The claim came from a paper produced by a lobby group, which was itself repeating a quote once given to some journalists. This is the scientific equivalent of dodgy dossier land. To compound the error, the IPCC's head, Rajendra Pachauri, then obfuscated when challenged.

This Himalayan gaffe comes on the heels of "climategate" - a British scandal in which scientists at the University of East Anglia were accused of deflecting requests for information and data from known climate sceptics. It has also stirred up a series of further allegations about other claims contained in the IPPC's report. This drumbeat of criticism threatens to undermine trust in the good faith of the climate science community.

Climate science is a highly emotive area. There is so much at stake. If the more doom-laden observers are correct, the outcome for the world is almost too frightful to contemplate. Of course, scientists are always going to have a view about the politics. What is vital is that there should never be the suggestion that enthusiasm for the cause has led to the "reverse engineering" of findings.

The amateurishness of the Himalayan claim makes it look more like a blunder than something sinister. But given the IPCC's central role in climate science, it needs to be whiter than white. To restore confidence, it should commission an independent audit. This would look at all the claims in the 2007 report and remove any that were not soundly based. The auditor might also look at the IPCC's decision to report only those findings that fall within a certain consensus. Is it really right to exclude scientifically rigorous but outlying opinions, especially when this hands ammunition to its critics, who accuse it of suppressing dissenting views? Lastly, the IPPC must be smarter in the way it engages with the wider world. Mr Pachauri's handling of the allegations has been lamentable. Considerably more humility in the face of criticism is required.

The IPCC must learn from this gaffe. Not only is its own credibility at stake, but possibly the cause of climate science also.