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Barton: EPA Deep-Sixed Data Critical of Endangerment Finding

A ranking House Republican last Wednesday accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of suppressing an internal report that didn't support the agency's position that greenhouse gases (GHG) contribute to air pollution and endanger public health.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, produced internal EPA e-mails that suggested an analysis by Alan Carlin, a senior career economist in EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE), was "critical of the proposed endangerment finding," and "was barred from agency consideration by supervising EPA officials."

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Barton wrote the e-mails indicate that the "staff analysis was suppressed because the administrator and the administration had already decided to go forward with the endangerment finding, and that the office's budget would be further reduced if analysis or comments critical of the proposed [endangerment] finding were forwarded."

In a March 16 e-mail, nearly one month before EPA issued its endangerment finding, Carlin wrote: "I believe my comments are valid, significant and contain references to significant new research...They are significant because they present information critical to the justification (or lack thereof) for the proposed endangerment finding. They are valid because they explain much of the observational data that have been collected which cannot be explained by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] models."

Responding on March 17, NCEE Director Al McGartland said: "I decided not to forward your comments. The time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed for this round. The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.

"With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues. I don't want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change," he told Carlin. McGartland added that "you may have heard that our budget was cut by 66%," suggesting that perhaps it would be further pared if information critical of the endangerment finding was submitted.

"These e-mails, to the extent they accurately reflect decisions and events in the run-up to your April 2009 proposed endangerment finding, raise serious questions not only about the completeness and reliability of the information you relied upon in making the proposed endangerment finding, but also whether you truly sought objective and complete information in exercising your judgment," Barton said.

"Suppression of material information from EPA's own staff and concerns about cuts for offices that submit comments critical of the proposed endangerment finding also raise serious questions concerning the transparency and integrity of EPA's analyses and the atmosphere of open and free intellectual discourse at the agency," he said.

Barton has asked EPA's Jackson to respond to several questions within two weeks, including whether she has instructed any agency staff (particularly the NCEE) that conduct research or analysis related to the endangerment finding to cease work; whether the EPA received instructions from the Obama administration to cease ongoing agency inquiry and analyses related to the proposed endangerment finding; and whether the EPA is seeking to cut the budget of its NCEE office.

Barton also called last Thursday for both the House energy panel and House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee to begin an investigation of the process that the EPA used to develop its endangerment finding.

The EPA endangerment finding, which was issued in late April, is subject to public comment and followed a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that directed EPA to revisit the regulation of GHG after the agency rejected a request to initiate a rulemaking on the gases blamed for global warming (see NGI, April 20).

While the endangerment finding would give the EPA the authority to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act, Jackson and the Obama administration have repeatedly said they prefer legislation to address the issue. The House was to start debate Friday on its climate change bill, which seeks to cut heat-trapping GHG emissions by 17% from 2005 levels in 2020; by 42% in 2030; and by 83% in 2050 (see NGI, May 25).

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