GOP: Politics led EPA to regulate greenhouse gases

House Republicans accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a rush to judgment in deciding to regulate greenhouse gases in order to “fulfill the Obama administration’s political agenda.”

The charge is part of an 18-page report written by Republican staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming released Thursday.

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It in part rehashes claims made by conservative commentators and Republican members of Congress this summer that EPA leaders suppressed the views of a staff economist who argued against regulating carbon dioxide to address global warming.

It also relies on an interview with the economist to support its findings that EPA rushed its review of public comments supporting and opposing using the Clean Air Act to force greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The larger issue is whether the EPA should act instead of waiting for Congress to force cuts through legislation. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal agency had the authority to regulate carbon emissions through the Clean Air Act. But doing so requires the EPA to find that CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health.

It is the process of the so-called “endangerment finding” that is the subject of the Republican report.

It accuses EPA leaders of setting an “arbitrary deadline” and states that regulators had “failed to build a sound scientific record demonstrating negative human health impacts or to consider the effects its decision would have on the U.S. economy.”

Democrats noted that EPA officials under the George W. Bush administration in a preliminary finding reached the same conclusion about the danger posed by greenhouse gases.

“The Bush administration EPA and the Obama administration EPA both reached the same conclusion: that global warming poses a real threat,” said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House select committee on global warming, in a statement released in response to the GOP report.

“The difference is, the Bush administration, directed by [Vice President] Dick Cheney, suppressed that finding, and the Obama administration didn’t.”

But Republicans said EPA’s endangerment working group, formed to recommend a response to the Supreme Court decision, had little time to review the evidence. It held its first meeting on March 3, 2009. But Greenwire reported on an internal document from the EPA that stated the agency intended to finish its review by March 18.

In an interview with GOP staff, EPA officials noted that the timeframe to review a draft greenhouse gas rulemaking produced by the Office of Air and Radiation was accelerated. One official was Alan Carlin, an economist in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics.
Carlin made news this summer when e-mails he wrote suggesting his contrarian views on climate change were suppressed by his superiors were leaked.

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Al McGartland, the director of the economics branch of EPA where Carlin works, apparently refused to pass along Carlin’s comments in opposition to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. A New York Times report said McGartland was reprimanded for blocking those views, and that Carlin remained free to talk to the press.

The news report also said that Carlin is an economist, not a climate scientist, and that he had never been assigned to work on climate change issues at the EPA.

The Republican report disputes that contention, claiming that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson acknowledged climate change was among Carlin’s responsibilities.