OMB memo raises doubts about EPA findings

An EPA finding last month that greenhouse gases are a danger to public health rests on dubious assumptions and could have negative economic impacts, a memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned.

The memo has no listed author but is marked "Deliberative--Attorney Client Privilege." A spokesman for OMB told Dow Jones Newswires that the brief is a "conglomeration of counsel we've received from various agencies" about the EPA finding, the conclusions of which would trigger regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The author(s) of the memo suggest the EPA did not thoroughly examine the relationship between greenhouse gases and human health.

"In the absence of a strong statement of the standards being applied in this decision, there is concern that EPA is making a finding based on...'harm' from substances that have no demonstrated direct health effects," the memo says, adding that the "scientific data that purports to conclusively establish" that link was from outside EPA.

Additionally, the new regulations triggered by the finding would likely harm the economy, the brief warns.

"Making the decision to regulate CO2...is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities," the memo reads.

Finally, in language sure to anger climate change activists, the memo questions whether climate change might bring benefits that would mitigate the costs.

"To the extent that climate change alters out environment, it will create incentives for innovation and adaption that mitigate the damages," the memo reads. "The [EPA finding] should note this possibility[.]"

The memo goes so far as to suggest that global warming might be a net positive for certain regions of the United States.

"It might be reasonable to conclude that Alaska will benefit from warmer winters for both health and economic reasons," the authors note.

At a Senate hearing today, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) grilled EPA administrator Lisa Jackson about the memo.

"This is a smoking gun," Barrasso said, accusing the EPA of making the finding for political reasons.

Jackson responded that the finding was based on science and was in no way politicized.

"That analysis had been done really before I took the oath of office," Jackson said.

She acknowledged that curbing climate change might have economic impact, and added that the costs could be minimized through the administration's favored cap-and-trade system.

"We do understand that there are costs to the economy of addressing global warming emissions, and that the best way to address them is a gradual move to a market-based program like cap-and trade," Jackson said.