WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, along with the Republican leaders of other key committees, wrote another letter to the Biden administration’s “Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases” co-chairs. The letter calls on the Working Group to improve transparency in its activities. The letter also seeks information regarding the Working Group’s role in developing and using the “Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases” (SC-GHG) to advance the administration’s environmental agenda. This is Ranking Member Capito’s fourth request to the Biden administration for transparency on SC-GHG.
In light of increasing energy prices and inflation in the U.S., as well as the energy supply crisis in Europe as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the letter again asks for certain Working Group documents, additional information on the Working Group’s activities, and plans to use the SC-GHG. Since the last letter, the administration has relied on an inflated SC-GHG figure to oppose the expansion of natural gas infrastructure and to limit areas to be made available for energy production.
“Over six months have passed since our letter, and you have neither acknowledged, nor responded, to our oversight request. The lack of responsiveness is at odds with the Administration’s commitment to transparency and its policy ‘to comply with Congressional requests for information to the fullest extent consistent with constitutional and statutory obligations of the Executive Branch’ which Department of Justice recently reaffirmed,” the members wrote.
The letter is co-signed by Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board noted the following on the social cost of greenhouse gases — “[t]he [Biden] Administration’s estimate captured all of the potential harm from carbon emissions globally over three centuries – yes, centuries. They threw in everything from property damage to health harms and war.”
The full letter can be found here and below:
Dear Chair Rouse, Director Young, and Dr. Nelson,
As the Ranking Members of nine Senate Committees, we write to follow-up on our unanswered November 4, 2021 letter to you, the “Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases” (Working Group) Co-Chairs, to request information regarding the Working Group’s activities. Over six months have passed since our letter, and you have neither acknowledged, nor responded, to our oversight request. The lack of responsiveness is at odds with the Administration’s commitment to transparency and its policy “to comply with Congressional requests for information to the fullest extent consistent with constitutional and statutory obligations of the Executive Branch” which Department of Justice recently reaffirmed.
Since our November letter, the challenges facing our economy from factors foreign and domestic have only worsened. Inflation is rising at a pace the American public has not experienced in more than 40 years. The average American household has to spend an extra $327 per month to cover daily expenses compared to a year ago. American families and businesses are paying over 11 percent more for electricity than they were last year. Gas prices recently reached historically high levels. This erosion of purchasing power harms our constituents and undermines our domestic economic security, issues that will only be exacerbated by the international crisis in Ukraine bringing additional disruptions to global energy markets and supply chains.
President Biden tasked the Working Group with developing recommendations to broadly use the “Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases” (SC-GHG) in “areas of decision-making, budgeting, and procurement by the Federal government.” As a result of your lack of transparency to date and unresponsiveness to our oversight requests, we cannot evaluate the full extent of what the Working Group is doing or how the Administration is using Working Group products to inform policy.
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine makes it clear that energy security is essential to national security. President Biden recognized the strategic importance of secure, affordable energy when he announced that the US will increase energy exports to Europe. This will both strengthen our relationships with our allies and reduce their dependence on Russian energy. However, the Administration’s actions are not aligned with the President’s rhetoric.
In some of the publicly-available examples we have identified, the Working Group’s SC-GHG figures are being marshalled by federal agencies in an attempt to slow or stop the development of energy resources and infrastructure. Given the need for affordable energy both by American families and our allies abroad – in particular those in Europe – these examples are troubling. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly relied on the SC-GHG to oppose natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure—asserting that these critical energy projects would lead to billions of dollars in climate damages. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) incorporated the SC-GHG when it selected the federal land to make available as part of its forthcoming oil and gas lease sales. BLM reduced the areas available for lease sales by 80 percent from the original proposal.
We ask that you respond to the following requests no later than May XX, 2022 so that we may have a full understanding of the Administration’s past, current, and future plans to develop and use these figures.
- Provide a list of all meetings of the Working Group, including the date and location of each meeting.
- Provide a list of all attendees at those meetings, including the titles, offices, and agencies of each attendee.
- Provide the Working Group’s recommendations to the President regarding “areas of decision-making, budgeting, and procurement by the Federal Government” where SC-GHG may or are expected to be used under E.O. 13990.
- Describe the status of the Working Group’s activities to publish a “final” SC-GHG under E.O. 13990.
- Describe how the Working Group will solicit and consider public comments on the process for reviewing and updating the SC-GHG under E.O. 13990.
- Is the Working Group tracking the use of the SC-GHG in all federal decisions on applications for permits, licenses, and other federal authorizations? If so, please provide that list.
We look forward to your cooperation on this request.
In February 2021, Ranking Member Capito sent a letter to President Biden asking the administration to postpone efforts to set “interim” cost values on the social cost of greenhouse gases. The administration set an “interim” cost anyway.
In June 2021, Ranking Member Capito requested the Working Group extend the public comment period by 45 days, as well as basic information regarding the Working Group’s transparency and plans for public engagement. The Working Group denied the public comment extension and dismissed calls to ensure transparency of the Working Group’s actions and decisions.
In November 2021, Ranking Member Capito led her Republican colleagues in requesting the Working Group provide their recommendations about planned use of the SC-GHG in federal decision making. The letter was unacknowledged and unanswered.
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