Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

Katie Brown (202) 224-2160


EPA IG Finds Serious Flaws in Centerpiece of Obama Global Warming Agenda

Report calls the scientific integrity of EPA’s decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding

Link to EPA IG Report

Washington, D.C.—Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today announced that a new government report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals that the scientific assessment underpinning the Obama EPA’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gasses was inadequate and in violation of the Agency’s own peer review procedures.

The IG report released today, “Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes,” was requested by Senator Inhofe in an April 7, 2010 letter to the EPA IG.  Senator Inhofe asked that the OIG conduct an investigation into whether EPA followed the Data Quality Act and its own peer review procedures—which are designed to ensure that EPA makes decisions according to the best possible science—when it issued its finding that greenhouse gases harm public health and welfare, otherwise known as the endangerment finding.  The EPA OIG Report finds that EPA failed in this respect. 

“I appreciate the Inspector General conducting a thorough investigation into the Obama-EPA’s handling of the endangerment finding for greenhouse gases," Senator Inhofe said. “This report confirms that the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed.  It calls the scientific integrity of EPA’s decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding.

“The Inspector General’s investigation uncovered that EPA failed to engage in the required record-keeping process leading up to the endangerment finding decision, and it also did not follow its own peer review procedures to ensure that the science behind the decision was sound. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson readily admitted in 2009 that EPA had outsourced its scientific review to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  This is an institution whose credibility has already been called into question.  Even so, EPA still refused to conduct its own independent review of the science.  As the EPA Inspector General found, whatever one thinks of the UN science, the EPA is still required - by its own procedures - to conduct an independent review.

“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 greenhouse gas regime.  And all of this economic pain is for nothing: as EPA Administrator Jackson also admitted before the EPW committee, these regulations will have no affect on the climate.  

“One asks, what happened to Administrator Jackson’s vow in 2009 that the Agency would commit to high standards of transparency because ‘The success of our environmental efforts depends on earning and maintaining the trust of the public we serve’ or Obama Advisor John Holdren’s promise that the Administration would make decisions based on the best possible science because, as the President said, ‘The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions’?  Given what has come to light in this report, it appears that the Obama EPA cannot be trusted on the most consequential decision the agency has ever made.  

“I am calling for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the committee of jurisdiction over the EPA, to hold immediate hearings to address EPA’s failure to provide the required documentation and have the science impartially reviewed.  EPA needs to explain to the American people why it blatantly circumvented its own procedures to make what appears to be a predetermined endangerment finding.”  

Specifically, the EPA IG found that EPA neglected to identify from the outset if the endangerment finding Technical Support Document (TSD) was a Highly Influential Scientific Assessment, (HISA) which, under the Office of Budget and Management’s Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review, requires complete record-keeping of all documents leading up to that decision and a thorough review of the science by an impartial panel. 

EPA told the OIG that it did not consider the endangerment finding TSD a HISA, but in the course of its investigation, the OIG determined that the endangerment finding TSD was indeed a HISA and therefore EPA should have engaged in a more rigorous process. 

The OIG found that EPA could not produce the required records, and because one of the 12 members of the peer review panel for the endangerment finding TSD was also an EPA employee, OIG also found that the required impartiality of the peer review process under the requirements of a HISA was undermined. 

Highlights from EPA Office of the Inspector General Report: “Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes”

- “EPA’s peer review did not meet all OMB requirements for such documents. EPA had the TSD reviewed by a panel of 12 federal climate change scientists. However, the panel’s findings and EPA’s disposition of the findings were not made available to the public as would be required for reviews of highly influential scientific assessments. Also, this panel did not fully meet the independence requirements for reviews of highly influential scientific assessments because one of the panelists was an EPA employee. Further, in developing its endangerment finding, we found that OAR did not: Include language in its proposed action, final action, or internal memoranda that identified whether the Agency used influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments to support the action. OAR also did not certify that the supporting technical information was peer reviewed in accordance with EPA’s peer review policy.”

- “Additionally, EPA’s Peer Review Handbook directs the Agency to include a statement in its action memorandum that the Agency followed its peer review policy with respect to the influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments supporting the action.”

- “In our opinion, the endangerment finding TSD is a highly influential scientific assessment that should have been peer reviewed as outlined in Section III of OMB’s Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review. OAR never formally designated the document as either influential scientific information or as a highly influential scientific assessment in the preamble to the proposed and final endangerment findings or in its internal documentation. EPA did not consider the TSD to be a highly influential scientific assessment. Additionally, OAR did not adhere to some of its internal processes established to guide Tier 1 actions. We noted that OAR had completed many of the processes and steps outlined in its guidance to ensure the quality of the information the Administrator used in making her determination. Those processes are intended to help ensure EPA develops quality actions and to provide assurance on data quality. We concluded that the Agency did not complete some of these key requirements and recommended actions. We did not analyze the quality of the scientific information and data used to support the Administrator’s decision.”

- “We found that EPA did not contemporaneously document how it applied and considered the assessment factors in determining whether the IPCC and other assessment reports were of sufficient quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity. EPA described the IPCC review procedures and how they met EPA data quality requirements in the proposed and final rulemakings. However, the Agency did not conduct any independent evaluations of IPCC’s compliance with IPCC procedures, nor did EPA document any specific processes it employed to evaluate the scientific and technical information included in IPCC’s AR4 prior to EPA disseminating that information.”

- “Because EPA used information from other organizations to support its findings, EPA, in evaluating whether to disseminate that information, should have determined whether the assessments referenced in the TSD (e.g., IPCC’s AR4) complied with EPA’s information quality guidelines, and whether the peer reviews of these assessments met OMB’s requirements for peer review of scientific assessments. U.S. government acceptance of the documents did not relieve EPA of its responsibility to determine whether the data met EPA’s information quality guidelines before disseminating the information.”