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National Journal: Should EPA Bow To Chamber's Demand ?
August 31, 2009

Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov

 National Journal: Should EPA Bow To Chamber's Demand ?

The National Journal asked politicians, academics and others the following questions:  Should the Environmental Protection Agency be required to publicly defend its finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare? Should the climate change data be reviewed in a public administrative law hearing? Would a public hearing make any difference? Or is the hearing request just an excuse to delay the agency's climate change decision?

Background from National Journal:

In April, the EPA released a proposal concluding that carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants cause health problems. Now the agency is poised to release the final version of that ruling. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues that before the decision is finalized, EPA should be required to defend its scientific conclusions in front of an administrative law judge. Chamber officials and other critics claim that the Obama administration is suppressing internal agency studies that disagree with the proposed endangerment finding.

Below is Senator Inhofe’s response posted on the National Journal Blog.

August 31, 2009

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., Ranking Republican, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

I begin by answering these questions with questions: Why would anyone oppose a full, open, transparent hearing to determine whether evidence supporting the most consequential regulatory decision of our time—affecting schools, hospitals, farms, apartment buildings, restaurants, nursing homes, and thousands of other sources—is up-to-date, accurate, and reflective of the best available scientific research? And why wouldn’t the Obama Administration, and its supporters in the environmental community, faced with a decision potentially imposing billions of dollars of costs on consumers and small businesses, favor a process that ensures maximum public participation and stakeholder input?

The answer is simple: in dismissing the Chamber’s petition as “frivolous,” EPA has made clear that, even before finalizing its regulation and considering thousands of public comments, it has already decided the question of endangerment. And in so doing, it has ignored, either deliberately or through omission, reams of scientific data, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has rigorously identified, undermining the case that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. 

EPA has also made clear that it doesn’t want to hear dissenting voices on this important question. This runs contrary to President Obama’s speech last December, in which he expressed his views on scientific integrity in the administrative process. As he said, “It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.” 

Notably, EPA was presented recently with “inconvenient” research by Dr. Alan Carlin, a 38-year employee of the agency. Dr. Carlin, in impressive detail, explained that the agency’s endangerment finding rests on out-of-date and incomplete scientific data. He requested that the agency conduct an independent review, yet his superiors denied his request, and suppressed his report. 

Once this was revealed, I, along with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), launched an investigation into how the report was suppressed, and into the larger question of the process EPA used to review and analyze scientific data relevant to an endangerment determination. For guidance, I asked Dr. John Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist, and a former IPCC and CCSP lead author, to review Dr. Carlin’s work. Here’s what he found: “Dr. Carlin advocates a simple and scientific approach. He asks the question (in essence), ‘Have all other explanations besides greenhouse gases been carefully examined and eliminated as causes for what has occurred?’ The answer is no, and thus the scientific process has not been carried out on this issue. I believe an independent, objective assessment would find evidence that natural variations are large and can explain much of what the recent climate has done.”

I should note that Dr. Christy’s assessment is widely shared within the scientific community. This is not a mere assertion, but a fact, which I have documented in a number of Senate Floor speeches, and on my website: there are hundreds of well-credentialed scientists raising legitimate questions about the science EPA is using. 

If, as EPA’s dismissive reaction to the Chamber’s petition implies, the science of global warming is settled, then an open, public hearing on the issue could only clarify and reinforce EPA’s view, thereby strengthening its case on endangerment. And any evidence presented contrary to EPA’s view—which, EPA presumably believes, would be immediately recognizable as erroneous—could be dispensed with in summary fashion, ensuring a quick hearing, and allowing EPA to meet its legal obligations. Yet EPA will have none of it, instead declaring ex cathedra that it alone possesses absolute certainty on the most complicated regulatory issue in the agency’s existence.

Dr. Christy eloquently expressed his opposition to this anti-intellectual mindset: “And, as important, it is hubris to assume our knowledge is so complete and so accurate that we can model the full variability of a system with its millions of degrees of freedom—many unknown to us--and produce an accurate forecast.”  In the humble spirit of questioning scientist, Dr. Christy calls for “a truly objective and independent examination of all of the data.”

The Chamber clearly stands on the side of open debate, airing all views, regardless of where they fall—an approach that, as experience has shown, produces sound decision making and policies grounded in facts and real-world observations. Therefore, EPA has nothing to lose but everything to gain by granting a public hearing. Yet it is saying no to transparency, no to greater public input, and no to the best available science. 

EPA Administrator Jackson said earlier this year, “The American people will not trust us to protect their health or their environment if they do not trust us to be transparent and inclusive in our decision-making. To earn this trust, we must conduct business with the public openly and fairly.” By rejecting the Chamber’s request, on an issue of monumental importance to the American economy, do these words really have any meaning?

Related Links:

EPW Policy Beat: ON LIBERTY

LA Times: US Chamber Seeks Trial

Link to US Chamber Blog Post on Call for Transparency

Link to US Chamber Petition  

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