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Free-Market Group Attacks Data Behind EPA 'Endangerment' Proposal
October 7, 2009

Posted by: David Lungren

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Free-market group attacks data behind EPA 'endangerment' proposal

By: Robin Bravender

October 07, 2009

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A free-market advocacy group has launched another attack on the science behind U.S. EPA's proposed finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute -- a vocal foe of EPA's efforts to finalize its "endangerment finding" -- petitioned the agency this week to reopen the public comment period on the proposal, arguing that critical data used to formulate the plan have been destroyed and that the available data are therefore unreliable.

At issue is a set of raw data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, that includes surface temperature averages from weather stations around the world. According to CEI, the data provided a foundation for the 1996 second assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which EPA used when drafting its endangerment proposal.

According to the Web site for East Anglia's research unit, "Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data."

CEI general counsel Sam Kazman said this lack of raw data calls the endangerment finding into question. "EPA is resting its case on international studies that in turn relied on CRU data. But CRU's suspicious destruction of its original data, disclosed at this late date, makes that information totally unreliable," he said. "If EPA doesn't re-examine the implications of this, it's stumbling blindly into the most important regulatory issue we face."

In a statement filed with CEI's petition, Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Michaels called the development a "totally new element" in the endangerment debate. "It violates basic scientific principles and throws even more doubt onto the contention that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions endanger human welfare," he wrote.

Michaels is a University of Virginia professor and author of the book, "The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming." He stepped down from his post as Virginia's state climatologist in 2007 after he came under fire for publicly doubting global warming while taking money from the utility industry (Greenwire, Sept. 27, 2007).

Representatives of East Anglia University's Climatic Research Unit were not available to comment on the CEI petition.

EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy said the agency will evaluate the petition. "But after initial review of the statement their position rests upon," Andy added, "it certainly does not appear to justify upheaval."

The petition is the latest in a string of CEI challenges to the proceedings surrounding the endangerment finding and other Obama administration climate policies. Last week, the group threatened to sue the administration over documents related to the costs of a federal cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse gas emissions. And in June, the group accused EPA officials of suppressing dissenting views from an EPA environmental economist during the run-up to the release of the endangerment proposal.

Rick Piltz, director of the watchdog group Climate Science Watch and a former official at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, said that although the research unit's data are among key data sets used by the IPCC, "it's not the only data set that they use." He also said EPA drew on "multifaceted, robust" data in the technical support document underlying the finding.

EPA's endangerment finding relies most heavily on IPCC's 2007 fourth assessment; synthesis and assessment products of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program; National Research Council reports under the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; the EPA annual report on U.S. greenhouse gas emission inventories; and the EPA assessment of the effects of global change on regional U.S. air quality, according to the agency's technical support document.

"You do not need to reopen the IPCC reports and the technical support document on the EPA endangerment finding because of something having to do with the raw data from the temperature record from East Anglia University in the 1980s," Piltz said, adding that the IPCC carefully vets its data.

Piltz said CEI is on an ideological mission to head off EPA attempts to finalize the endangerment finding and is "grasping at straws" by challenging the IPCC data.

"Their bottom line is an antiregulatory ideology," Piltz said. "When they use science, they use it tactically, and they will go to war with the mainstream science community."

Republican senators also weighed in yesterday, urging EPA to reopen the public comment period on the endangerment finding to investigate the scientific merit of the research data.

"It's astonishing that EPA, so confident in the scientific integrity of its work, refuses to be transparent with the public about the most consequential rulemaking of our time," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe sent a joint press release with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) accusing EPA of relying upon flawed data.

"Now the evidence shows that scientists interested in testing some of EPA's assertions can't engage in basic scientific work, such as assuring reproducibility and objectivity, because the data they seek have been destroyed," Inhofe said. "In order to conform to federal law and basic standards of scientific integrity, EPA must reopen the record so the public can judge whether EPA's claims are based on the best available scientific information."

Click here to see CEI's petition.


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