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Impact of EPA IG Report: EPA Cut Corners - Scolded on Review Process - Report with Wide Reaching Implications
September 29, 2011

Posted by matt_dempsey@epw.senate.gov

"Obama Administration Cut Corners" - "EPA scolded on greenhouse gas report review process" - "Report with Wide-Reaching Implications" - "fresh ammunition to vocal EPA critics"

Inhofe EPW Press Roundup

Link to Inhofe Press Release

AP: "Obama Administration Cut Corners": The Obama administration cut corners when it produced a key scientific document underpinning its decision to regulate climate-changing pollution, an internal government watchdog said Wednesday.The inspector general's report says the Environmental Protection Agency should have followed a more robust review process for a technical paper supporting its determination that greenhouse gases posed dangers to human health and welfare, a finding that ultimately compelled it to issue costly and controversial regulations to control greenhouse gases for the first time...The Obama administration has made a big deal about the importance of peer review. Six weeks after taking office in 2009, Obama issued a memo that said: "When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards." A year later, the president's science adviser, John Holdren, emphasized the "particular importance" of outside review by scientists.

DOWJONES: EPA Criticized Over Greenhouse-Gas Findings: WASHINGTON-Internal investigators at the Environmental Protection Agency said the agency failed to follow peer-review guidelines when developing a key scientific document that underpins its greenhouse-gas regulations. The findings are likely to stoke Republican opposition to the EPA's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases and could arm industry groups that are fighting the regulations in court. One prominent Republican is already calling for congressional hearings on the issue. The document in question was developed by the EPA and used to support its 2009 "endangerment finding." That finding concluded that greenhouse gases-including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide-pose a threat to public health. It paved the way for the EPA to begin developing greenhouse-gas standards for refiners, power plants and other large emitters. In a report released Wednesday, the EPA's inspector general said the agency didn't follow federal guidelines for peer review when developing a 200-page scientific document to support its findings.

REUTERS: "EPA Took a Shortcut": The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took a shortcut in laying the groundwork to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a government watchdog said on Wednesday in a report that could fuel Republican efforts to block the agency's new rules on climate.

WASHINGTON TIMES: "didn't treat the finding as seriously as the situation required":  The Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday the Obama administration cut corners in evaluating the science it used to back up its finding that carbon is a dangerous pollutant that can be regulated under existing federal law. The report by the EPA's inspector general is certain to be used in court by those seeking to overturn EPA's claim that it can write global-warming rules under existing law and doesn't need new authority from Congress. Investigators did not evaluate the scientific conclusions. The report said EPA did follow basic rules but didn't treat the finding as seriously as the situation required, and failed to meet administration guidelines for peer review of such a major issue.

WASHINGTON POST: "EPA should have conducted a more detailed scientific review": The Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted a more detailed scientific review before determining two years ago that greenhouse-gas emissions pose a threat to public health and welfare, according to a report issued Wednesday by the agency's Office of Inspector General. "This review did not meet all [Office of Management and Budget] requirements for peer review of a highly influential scientific assessment primarily because the review results and EPA's response were not publicly reported, and because 1 of the 12 reviewers was an EPA employee," the study said... Beyond the court case, House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) indicated that he might hold hearings. "This report raises serious questions that our committee and staff will further review," he said in a statement.

LA TIMES:  EPA scolded on greenhouse gas report review process: The EPA is quibbling with its own inspector general, based on a bureaucratic but important distinction. Scientific documents that are considered "highly influential" have to meet review requirements set by the White House's Office of Management and Budget. The inspector general said the document in question was "highly influential," while the EPA hierarchy disagrees. The inspector general said the EPA's technical support document had a high influence on the agency's eventual decision because the agency "weighed the strength of available science by its choices of information, data, studies and conclusions included in and excluded from" the technical support document.

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Report "does give fresh ammunition to vocal EPA critics."  An Environmental Protection Agency inspector general report released Wednesday faults the agency for not properly reviewing technical data that underpins its authority to control greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The 99-page report found no fault with the EPA's data, but it criticized EPA's method of assessing the so-called "endangerment finding" -- in particular, for relying on existing peer-viewed studies rather than conducting a fresh scientific review when issuing the finding. EPA's review of data from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also did not meet the White House Office of Management and Budget's own requirements "because the review results and EPA's response were not publicly reported, and because 1 of the 12 reviewers was an EPA employee," the IG report said. While the report is not expected to stop EPA's rollout of the climate change rules, it does give fresh ammunition to vocal EPA critics. Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., who made the report public on Wednesday, said it raises questions about the EPA's veracity, an explosive charge as environmental regulations have become a central issue in the presidential campaign.

THE HILL: EPA IG - "document should have undergone a "more rigorous" peer review."  Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said in a statement Wednesday that the technical support document should have undergone a "more rigorous" peer review. The report also finds that EPA should improve its procedures for vetting outside scientific data. The IG's opinion disputes both the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and EPA. Calling it a "highly influential scientific assessment" under OMB's peer-review guidelines, Elkins said EPA's review didn't meet the standards for such a consequential document.

GREENWIRE: "Report with Wide-Reaching Implications": In a report with wide-reaching political implications, U.S. EPA's inspector general has found that the scientific assessment backing U.S. EPA's finding that greenhouse gases are dangerous did not go through sufficient peer review for a document of its importance. The new report, released today, examines only federal requirements for EPA's "technical support document" and not the accuracy of the scientific studies included within it. But its conclusions have nevertheless reinvigorated GOP criticism of EPA's endangerment finding, which enabled the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. "This report confirms that the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama's job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement. "It calls the scientific integrity of EPA's decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding."

Politico: IG raps EPA for procedural issues with endangerment finding: EPA and Office of Management and Budget staff said they did not designate the data as highly influential "because it only summarized existing findings and conclusions and provided no new findings or conclusions." The IG came to a different conclusion. "In our opinion, the TSD [technical support document] was a highly influential scientific assessment because EPA weighed the strength of the available science by its choices of information, data, studies and conclusions included in and excluded from the TSD," the report says. (Highly influential assessments are defined by the OMB as having a potential impact of more than $500 million in one year or being "novel, controversial or precedent-setting.") In its initial response in the IG's report, the EPA defended its actions, arguing that "the TSD does not meet the OMB definition of a scientific assessment in that no weighing of information, data and studies occurred in the TSD." Instead, the agency says, the TSD was merely a compilation of previous research used as background material. The report also found that the EPA violated OMB policy when a panel of 12 federal climate scientists who reviewed the document included one who worked at the EPA. The IG recommends establishing minimum requirements for evaluating data from outside organizations; altering the EPA's peer review guidelines to accurately reflect OMB requirements; and specifying whether future rules are backed by highly influential assessments or merely influential assessments.

DAILY CALLER: "Inhofe Lambasted the EPA for its failure":  Inhofe lambasted the EPA for its failure to adhere to its own rules, outsourcing the science to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - and refusing to conduct its own analysis of the science - in the period leading up to its final endangerment finding. "The endangerment finding is no small matter: Global warming regulations imposed by the Obama-EPA under the Clean Air Act will cost American consumers $300 to $400 billion a year, significantly raise energy prices, and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. This is not to mention the ‘absurd result' that EPA will need to hire 230,000 additional employees and spend an additional $21 billion to implement its [green house gas] regime. And all of this economic pain is for nothing: As EPA Administrator [Lisa] Jackson also admitted before the Environmental and Public Works] committee, these regulations will have no affect on the climate."





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