Sen. Vitter presses EPA on carbon cost tally

A senior Republican is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for details about the interagency group that sets the “social cost of carbon,” an estimate of carbon pollution’s future economic toll that’s used in crafting climate and energy regulations.

Sen. David Vitter (La.), the top Republican on the Senate’s environment committee, sent a letter to the EPA on Tuesday seeking a list of program offices and officials involved in the process and information on outside parties consulted.

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“These estimates are of great significance not only because they are used to justify costly and controversial regulations but also because the specific participants with any level of involvement in the process behind developing the estimates have been kept completely anonymous,” writes Vitter, the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The letter to Sarah Dunham, head of the EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs, also asks whether the development of the estimate, which the administration increased in May, comported with the EPA’s data quality and peer review guidelines.

The letter follows Dunham’s appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week, when she briefly discussed her office’s work with the interagency group that Vitter has labeled a “black box.”

Vitter and other lawmakers and industry opponents of EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions have seized on development of the social cost of carbon, arguing that the process to arrive at the estimate has not been transparent.

Howard Shelanski, the top White House regulatory official, recently defended the process to develop the social cost of carbon but also agreed to formally solicit public comment.