By Ben Geman - 01/15/10 03:12 PM EST
The DQA is a very brief statute that was buried in a 2000 appropriations bill. It says federal agencies must ensure the integrity of data they disseminate and allows outside parties to submit petitions for corrections.
The four lawmakers say questions about the practices of prominent climate scientists have clouded a major report — written by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that EPA relied on when crafting the endangerment finding.
“The ‘Climategate’ e-mails raise legitimate questions over whether the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, and other synthesis documents that rely [on] the work of the implicated scientists, satisfy the requirements of the DQA,” the letter states.
Issa and Sensenbrenner are the ranking Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, respectively. Barrasso and Vitter are both the ranking members of subcommittees on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
All four, along with other climate skeptics, allege that e-mails among scientists hacked from a major U.K. research institute, the Climatic Research Unit, have undercut evidence of global warming. But many scientists, along with top Obama administration officials, stongly disagree and say the messages have been taken out of context.
The Data Quality Act has never wounded environmental regulations in the way that activists feared when industry petitions began piling up in the first few years after its enactment. That’s in part because a federal court decision in the middle of the decade held that agency responses to data quality challenges are not subject to judicial review.
But the data law isn’t the only hook for challenging EPA.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wants to overturn the endangerment finding using the Congressional Review Act, enacted in 1996, which allows Congress to block federal agency rules. But it has been used successfully just once, when Congress overturned a Department of Labor ergonomics rule in 2001.
This post was updated at 11 a.m.