Tags: epa | ruling | climate | emails

Controversial EPA Ruling Linked to 'Climategate' E-mails

Wednesday, 09 Dec 2009 07:49 PM

By David A. Patten

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Republicans and conservative think tanks are calling for the Obama administration to revoke its declaration that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant subject to EPA regulation on the grounds that the EPA's primary source of information for the finding was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

An important source of data for the IPCC was the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England, the source of the highly controversial "climategate" e-mails. IPCC officials deny that their data on climate change is in any way biased.

Newsmax has verified 34 references to IPCC information in the EPA's 25-page "Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases," which was published in the April 24 edition of the Federal Register (pages 18886-18910).

This is the document the EPA used to support its preliminary finding, which in turn provided the underpinning for the endangerment finding issued on Monday.

Climate Research United Director Phil Jones has stated that he regrets sending some of the e-mails. He has stepped down pending an investigation.

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The e-mails, which were hacked and posted anonymously on the Internet, suggest that climate scientists may have presented data selectively to strengthen the case for global warming. One e-mail referred to a desire to "beat the crap" out of a climate-change skeptic. Another termed the lack of recent warming a "travesty." And another discussed using a "trick" to "hide the decline."

Jones has said he wrote the e-mails hastily but did not manipulate data.

The EPA's ruling that it is authorized under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, a byproduct given off whenever a hydrocarbon fuel is burned, is based on a "technical support document," or TSD.

"The TSD therefore relies most heavily on the major assessment reports of both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program," according to the EPA's finding.

An earlier version of the support document relied even more on IPCC data, according to the EPA's proposed endangerment finding.

That version was criticized, however, for not having enough recent U.S. data, so the EPA added in reports from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. There are 11 references to the that program in the proposed endangerment finding.

The finding also states: "Even with more recent information available, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report remains a standard reference, essentially serving as the benchmark against which new findings over the next few years will be compared. Therefore it also serves as a robust and valuable reference for purposes of this proposal."

News that the EPA admittedly relied "most heavily" on "robust and valuable" information from an organization that may be caught up in climategate triggered calls Wednesday for the administration to withdraw the endangerment finding altogether.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank issued a news release Monday stating it is filing a lawsuit to block the finding because "EPA has ignored major scientific issues, including those raised recently in the Climategate fraud scandal."

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Newsmax Wednesday afternoon that, considering the EPA's heavy reliance on IPCC information, President Obama should reconsider it.

“This revelation is precisely the reason that Congress should reassert its authority in this matter," Blackburn stated in an e-mail to Newsmax. "The chief executive is using suspect findings to push forward job-killing regulations on American industry rather than waiting on Congress to assess the science and mitigate the extraordinary economic damage these regulations will do.

"This is for the benefit of politicians in Copenhagen, not working men and women in the United States," Blackburn said. "The president should revisit the EPA’s finding as well as his approach to climate change.”

Blackburn is the sponsor of H.R. 391, a proposed bill that would prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act.

Ben Lieberman, a Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst on energy and the environment, voiced similar concerns. "It makes eminently good sense to take a time out on the policy, and not agree to anything, until we get to the bottom of climategate, until we find out which science we can trust and which science we can't trust," he told Newsmax. "I think rushing ahead [with the EPA endangerment finding] is irresponsible."

The EPA declaration allows the administration to bypass Congress as it establishes environmental regulations that could raise consumer costs sharply — all without the normal checks and balances of congressional advice and consent.

During President Obama's visit to China last month, he stated that he seeks a climate-change accord in Copenhagen that would have "immediately operational effect." The advice-and-consent process for major treaties in the Senate is notoriously drawn out.

The president has stated that he would prefer to receive comprehensive emission-control legislation from Congress. One drawback to using the EPA rule-making authority granted by the Clean Air Act to restrict emissions is that it tends to be piecemeal. Each EPA ruling is likely to encounter legal challenges from well-heeled business groups fighting to remain competitive in a difficult economy.

The administration has sent clear signals it is willing to act without congressional approval, however. In late September, it unilaterally announced proposed rules requiring about 400 power plants — those that are new or undergoing extensive renovation — to prove that they use the best available technology for reducing emissions. Plants that fail to comply would face significant penalties.

"We are not going to continue with business as usual," Jackson warned when the new rules were unveiled.

During an interview Monday with NPR's Gwen Ifill, Jackson portrayed the IPCC data as just one of many sources, rather than the primary source upon which the agency's conclusions were based.

"One thing I like to remind people is that the e-mails talk about one set of data and how it is interpreted out of dozens of sets of data," Jackson told Ifill. "And those sets of data have been used by hundreds, maybe thousands, of scientists around the world to reach all kinds of conclusions.

"So, there's nothing in that — those particular e-mails that change the underlying data. That was the essential question that we constantly asked ourselves during the development of this finding, and not just about these e-mails, but all along," she said.

The administration has stated that its issuance of the endangerment finding, which it timed for release as the global conference on climate change was getting underway in Copenhagen, responds to a 2007 Supreme Court mandate requiring the federal government to determine whether greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Section 202 of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA administrator to impose standards on any emissions that " may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare."

Unlike the controversial Kyoto accords that stalled in the U.S. Senate, however, regulations the EPA hands down under the Clean Air Act are not subject to congressional advice-and-consent.

When Jackson was asked during Monday's news conference why she didn't accede to GOP requests to put off the EPA finding until the climategate e-mails could be investigated, she replied: "I didn't delay it because there is nothing in the hacked e-mails that undermine the science upon which this decision was made," adding, "This issue has not raised new scientific questions that are not addressed already in this finding."

Jackson did not mention, however, that the leading source upon which its finding was based was the IPCC.

The Heritage Foundation's Lieberman said any EPA rulings could be tied up in court for years. But voters have good reason to be worried over the administration's intentions, he said.

"They will do as much as they can, however they can, until they're stopped," Lieberman told Newsmax of the administration's emissions policies, which many conservatives view as essentially an indirect tax on energy consumption.

The Heritage Foundation has estimated that achieving Obama's goals would cost a household of four nearly $3,000 a year in overall costs, largely because businesses will pass along increased costs to consumers. Reaching Obama's objectives would cost the nation 1 million jobs and a whopping $9.4 trillion in lost productivity by 2035, Lieberman estimates.

Much of the sturm and drang over the administration's authority to impose stringent new emission regulations stems from the still-troubled economy. Washington Post columnist George F. Will wrote this week that Obama's promise to cut emissions by 83 percent by 2050 would mean rolling levels back to circa 1910, "when there were 92 million Americans."

Will added: "But there will be 420 million Americans in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen."

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