The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has filed a formal petition asking that the Obama administration EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding that plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide represents a dangerous public health and safety “pollutant” finally be subjected to a proper “high level” peer review as required by the U.S. Information Quality Act (IQA).
The IQA requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidance to all federal agencies to ensure the “quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity” of information disseminated to the public.
It also requires those agencies to establish administrative mechanisms that allow affected persons to seek correction of information that doesn’t comply with the OMB guidance, including failures to undergo independent objective scientific peer review processes.
CEI’s petition charges that EPA’s Endangerment Finding (EF) procedures repeatedly violated multiple federal guidelines in order to push through an Obama administration anti-fossil energy agenda. In doing so, the agency ignored large volumes of contradictory scientific assessments.
Included are real-world climate observations which discredit EF credibility.
The EF, and the Technical Support Document (TSD) used to justify it, were rushed through just ten months after Barack Obama assumed office without allowing for any outside procedural or content challenges. In the process, EPA violated several IQA and OMB rulemaking requirements that have “a potential impact of more than $500 million in any year” . . . or present “novel, controversial or precedent-setting” changes . . . or would likely raise “significant interagency interest.”
CEI charges that the Obama EPA downplayed the significance of its review and decision, ignored the IQA and OMB requirements, and refused to allow citizens, independent energy, climate and health experts, or even scientific and professional societies, to nominate potential reviewers review draft assessments, or participate in the EF analysis.
Nor did the agency sponsor any public meetings or allow its internal peer reviewers to see any of the public comments that outside experts and organizations submitted to the agency.
Instead, the agency utilized an entirely internal review process designed and conducted entirely by its own employees — some of whom had serious conflicts of interests.
Included were researchers and administrators who reviewed their own scientific work; would have responsibilities writing, implementing and enforcing regulations based on that work; and had jobs and professional status that might be affected by the outcomes of their reviews.
Although none of the internal peer review panel’s questions and responses have ever been made public, being on “the right” politically-expedient side of the issues apparently mattered greatly. One of EPA’s most senior energy and economic experts was reportedly dismissed because his probing analyses and comments “[did] not help the legal or policy case” for the EF decision.
Those prescribed legal and policy cases were blatantly transparent, hugely expensive, and momentously impactful. Even the EPA admitted that its Clean Power Plan assault on coal-fired power plants carried an estimated $2.5 billion compliance price. EF-related vehicle emission rules added tens of billions of dollars more cost, and U.S. compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement would have run numbing numbers up into trillions.
In 2011, the EPA’s own inspector general found that the agency’s internal peer review process had failed to follow IQA guidelines in determining that greenhouse gases pose dangers to human health and welfare. Inspector Arthur A. Elkins Jr. issued a statement concluding, “While it may be debatable what impact, if any, this had on EPA’s finding, it is clear that EPA did not follow the required steps.
Nevertheless, nothing has ever been done to correct this circumstance, nor to objectively correlate any realistic regulatory costs and benefits.
Yet hope springs eternal.
Trump administration EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a May 13 memorandum to his assistant administrators instructing them to ensure that all future regulatory decisions are rooted in sound, transparent, and consistent approaches to evaluating benefits and costs.
Noting that depending on particular EPA offices and underlying laws at play, Wheeler wrote, “Benefits and costs have been treated differently.” In some cases, “the agency underestimated costs, overestimated benefits or evaluated benefits and costs inconsistently.”
Wheeler urged his staff to develop, incorporate, and ensure consistent use of key terms in federal law such as “practical,” “appropriate,” “reasonable,” and “feasible” — frequent benchmarks for mandates on pollution-controlling technology.
As reported in Bloomberg, EPA is also working to finalize a rule limiting agency use of scientific data and studies that rely on research that can’t be reproduced or where the underlying data are not public.
CEI Center for Energy and Environment Director Myron Ebell is encouraged by this long-overdue commitment to public and scientific accountability. He told Bloomberg, “EPA over the years has twisted their analysis of costs and benefits to justify rules that in reality cost far more than any direct benefits . . . We hope that Administrator Wheeler’s directive will result in new rules that at least curb worst abuses.”