Thursday, September 29, 2011

Battle Lines Drawn Over OIG Report On Endangerment Finding

Sep 28: U.S. EPA released a statement on the Agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on the process and procedure it used in developing its Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act [See WIMS 9/28/11]. EPA emphasized that, "Some news accounts have mischaracterized the report's findings." The Agency included a number of highlighted excerpts from the report in addition to its statement. 
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) Inhofe, and avid critic of climate change science and EPA actions to control GHG emissions, who requested the report from OIG reacted immediately and said the report indicated EPA endangerment finding "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." He said, "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 said in its official response, "We appreciate the important role played by the Inspector General's Office and will give the recommendations in this report the utmost consideration. Most importantly, the report does not question or even address the science used or the conclusions reached -- by EPA under this and the previous administration -- that greenhouse gas pollution poses a threat to the health and welfare of the American people. Instead, the report is focused on questions of process and procedure. While EPA will consider the specific recommendations, we disagree strongly with the Inspector General's findings and followed all the appropriate guidance in preparing this finding.

    "EPA undertook a thorough and deliberate process in the development of this finding, including a careful review of the wide range of peer-reviewed science. Since EPA finalized the endangerment finding in December of 2009, the vast body of peer reviewed science that EPA relied on to make its determination has undergone further examination by a wide range of independent scientific bodies. All of those reviews have upheld the validity of the science."
    EPA highlighted the following excerpts from the OIG report:
  • EPA met statutory requirements for rulemakings.
  • We did not test the validity of the scientific or technical information used by EPA to support its endangerment finding.
  • We did not make conclusions regarding the impact that EPA's information quality control systems may have had on the scientific information used to support the endangerment finding.
  • EPA fulfilled the statutory requirements for notice and comment rulemakings mandated in the Administrative Procedure Act and in Section 307 of the CAA, and employed several of its processes designed to ensure data quality.
  • OMB in response to our draft report stated that OMB believes that EPA reasonably interpreted the OMB bulletin in concluding that the TSD did not meet the bulletin's definition of a highly influential scientific assessment.
    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a brief statement saying, "The EPA Inspector General in no way questions the science underlying the endangerment finding. It is time to move on to protect the American people from the impacts of climate change, which we are already beginning to see."
    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) expressed concerns over the report and said the OIG found "that EPA failed to follow the government's own scientific review requirements" on the endangerment finding for greenhouse gases which he said is "at the core of Obama's climate change regulatory agenda." He said, "The Inspector General's findings call into question the credibility of the endangerment finding and the justification for multiple regulatory efforts that stemmed from that finding. EPA failed to conduct its proper due diligence and now the American people will be forced to pay the price. 

    "Sound process is critical to sound outcomes, and the credibility of federal policy and regulations is compromised when agencies cut corners. EPA's controversial greenhouse gas regulations are projected to cost tens of billions of dollars and could eliminate up to 1.4 million jobs by 2014. Clearly the stakes are high, and the notion that the Obama administration took regulatory shortcuts in pursuit of their preferred policy outcome is deeply troubling."   

    Steve Seidel, Vice President for Policy Analysis at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change analyzed the OIG report and said in a blog post, "So exactly what process fouls did EPA commit and how did they affect the outcome of the report? The IG criticizes EPA for not deeming the technical support document a "highly influential scientific assessment" and for not undertaking the procedural requirements set out in OMB guidance for such a document. Instead of undertaking its own assessment of the climate change literature, EPA determined that it would rely on the existing (and extensively peer reviewed) assessments performed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. National Research Council, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Because its document was essentially a summary of existing assessments, EPA argued that it was not conducting a scientific assessment and therefore was not subject to the process requirements for a "highly influential scientific assessment" in OMB guidance. And OMB agrees.

    "Putting aside the fact that OMB agrees with EPA's call, it is still reasonable to ask what peer review process was used for the document. In preparing the technical support document, EPA organized a panel of 12 federal agency climate experts (including one from EPA) to review the document. The document also underwent extensive interagency and OMB review before being published in the Federal Register for public review in July 2008 as part of the agency's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It was revised in response to public comments and reissued for a second round of public comments as part of the proposed endangerment finding in April 2009. The agency held public hearings on its proposed action and prepared 11 volumes of responses to public comments before issuing the final document and endangerment finding in December 2009.

    "The endangerment finding has been challenged in the courts, and they ultimately will decide its fate. Given the extensive body of peer reviewed scientific assessments that formed the basis for the finding and EPA's thorough review process for the finding itself, it is highly unlikely that any such challenges will prevail."

    Access the statement from EPA (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Upton (click here). Access the complete posting from the Pew Center (click here). Access the complete OIG report (click here).  [#Climate, #Air]
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