Lawmakers want answers on 'social cost of carbon' decision

Earlier this year, the Obama administration increased the estimated monetary costs of emissions. Known as the social cost of carbon (SCC), the revised estimate factors in changes in human health and agricultural productivity, property damage from greater flood risks and several others.

Congressional Republicans questioned whether the action was designed to justify contentious regulations now in the pipeline, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle raised concerns about transparency when the new estimate first surfaced as part of an Energy Department regulation on microwave oven efficiency.

The House Oversight Committee’s Energy Policy subpanel launched an investigation into the matter, summoning Howard Shelanski, the White House’s top regulatory official, to testify.

Shelanski’s testimony, however, did not satisfy the panel. The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and ranking Democrat, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), sent a letter Tuesday to Shelanski, asking him to provide additional information.

In particular, the lawmakers are seeking details about the process by which an interagency working group (IWG) revised the social cost of carbon.

“We believe that bringing to light more information about the interagency working group’s process — who participated, when and where they met, why and how they arrived at their conclusions — is essential to creating public confidence in the IWG’s work,” Lankford and Speier wrote.
 
The letter contains 17 pointed questions about how the working group arrived at the estimate and whether input was sought from the public.

The lawmakers requested the information be sent by Sept. 4.

“[I]ncreased transparency on the IWG’s methods will enable stakeholders to better participate in this process,” they wrote. “Increased insight into the IWG’s efforts will also help to ensure that the estimates and their use in rulemaking throughout the government conform to the highest standards.”