EPA says in its response to the Inspector General’s report: “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…” Read on for the full text and additional commentary.
Release date: 09/28/2011
Today, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on EPA’s process as it relates to the greenhouse gas endangerment finding. Some news accounts have mischaracterized the report’s findings. The following is EPA’s statement in response to the OIG report and some important excerpts from that report.
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.
EXCERPTS FROM 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.
From Joe Romm's post at Climate Progress: Inhofe Gets Inspector General to Spend $300,000 Confirming EPA Endangerment Finding ‘Met Statutory Requirements’
... This whole episode is a molehill against the ever-growing mountain of evidence that human-caused warming is a danger to humans.
But the Denier Industrial Complex mountain-building public works effort has a full-employment policy. So, as TP Green notes:
Attempting to create a new scandal, Inhofe highlighted the opinion of the OIG that more rigorous procedures should have been followed, saying that “the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed.”
Right-wing blogs are trying desperately to twist this confirmation of the endangerment finding’s integrity into a story of corruption, using Inhofe’s press release to falsely claim “EPA’s own inspector general calls greenhouse gas science flawed.”
From Shawn Lawrence Otto's post at Huffington Post: Report Critical of EPA Instead Raises Questions About Watchdog
... It is difficult to conclude other than that Inspector Elkins is playing politics in Inhofe's sandbox - conducting a major investigation at taxpayer expense -- the report cost nearly $300,000 -- to nick the agency with a finding that appears to be based on... not science... not the longstanding procedures of the EPA... not even the procedures of the OMB... but the arbitrary opinion of... himself.
Considering the charged policy environment around climate change and that the report was requested by congress's leading climate denier, Elkin's report seems a colossal blunder at best, and at worst an intentional toss of political ammunition to Inhofe to use in a PR spin cycle of further obfuscation and climate change denialism -- at a time when all the science is suggesting it is a threat to public health and the environment. Perhaps we should be asking "who's watching the watchdog?"
From David Doniger's post at the Natural Resources Defense Council: Inhofe Brews Tempest in Teapot While Global Warming Rages On
... The Inspector General’s report pointedly takes no issue with the science of climate change or the catalogue of dangers to our health, our environment, and our economy in EPA’s endangerment finding. Instead, the IG report picks a procedural nit, asserting that EPA failed to properly classify its own summary of the IPCC, GCRP, and NAS scientific assessments as itself being another “scientific assessment.”
Here’s the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin question: Is EPA’s document a “summary” of previous scientific assessments that were already peer reviewed (and thus does not need further review), or is it EPA’s document a new “scientific assessment,” needing yet another round of peer review.
EPA and the Office of Management and Budget (which supervises executive branch peer review and is no pushover for EPA) both agreed that EPA’s document is a summary, not a new assessment, and that there’s already been more than enough peer review. The IG disagrees.
Sen. Inhofe’s trumped up outrage about “serious flaws” in EPA’s endangerment finding and the “violation” of peer review procedures hinges on this arcane definitional disagreement: “summary” or “scientific assessment”? EPA and OMB on one side. The Inspector General and Sen. Inhofe on the other. That’s all Sen. Inhofe’s got.
By the way, what peer review procedures does Sen. Inhofe follow before he posts his “climate hoax” theories? Teapot calling the kettle black?
From Susan's post at Meta Climate: Shooting the Messenger — Denialism and the EPA Endangerment Finding
... You can’t deny the message? Kill the messenger any way you can, either by endlessly challenging the findings, the methods, the conclusions, the data, the character of the scientists themselves or the integrity of the scientific methods used.
Enough people will buy it because they simply don’t know better — or don’t want to. As Carl Sagan said:
“We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
I think Sagan was absolutely spot on in this. This ignorance about science and technology is what the denier relies on. Science is the enemy of those who would continue to pump greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere without regulation or controls. The strong reputation of science in general and the respect the public feels for scientists in particular is the target of those who want to destroy the message from this most inconvenient science.
The denialist attack on the EPA’s December 2009 finding that greenhouse gasses endangered human health is an exemplar of this strategy.