Vitter presses EPA on ‘black box’ carbon cost estimate

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) says something’s missing in the revised White House estimate of economic damages from carbon emissions: proper names.

Vitter pressed a senior Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Tuesday for names of participants in the interagency process to revise the “social cost of carbon,” a metric of carbon pollution’s toll.

“To anyone outside the administration including me, this is like a black box,” Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told EPA’s Sarah Dunham at a hearing Tuesday.

“We have been asking a number of legitimate questions through at least two letters about that process and about the participants, and I have just gotten no information yet,” he told Dunham, head of EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs.

Vitter and some other Republicans, as well as major business groups, say May’s upward revision of the social cost of carbon, a metric used to weigh the benefits of carbon-cutting regulations, was not done transparently.

Vitter asked Dunham to ensure his inquiries about participants' names and other issues are "substantively addressed."

Dunham told Vitter she attended some meetings on the topic. She also told Vitter she would look into his request for specific names of others.

“I can certainly take your interest in getting that back to the agency,” she said at the hearing, which was mostly about emissions of the greenhouse gas methane at oil-and-gas development sites.

The White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday afternoon announced new “technical corrections” to the social cost of carbon estimate.

The White House also pledged to launch a formal public comment process “in response to public and stakeholder interest.”

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This post was updated at 10:16 a.m. on Nov. 6 to correct the spelling of Sarah Dunham's name