Inspector General: EPA Failed to Follow Procedure on GHG Assessment

by | Sep 30, 2011

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The EPA Office of the Inspector General has taken a stance against the procedural policy the EPA used in its 2009 determination that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health and welfare, with a report released this week, “Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes.”

In December 2009, EPA published its Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, and according to the IG, the agency relied upon scientific assessments conducted by other organizations. The EPA summarized the results of these scientific assessments in its technical support document (TSD).

The IG took issue with how the TSD was used as a basis of determination, saying that the agency did not follow procedure while conducting a peer review of a “highly influential scientific assessment.”

The IG found that the EPA had the TSD reviewed by a panel of 12 federal climate change scientists; however, the review results and EPA’s response were not publicly reported, and one of the 12 reviewers was an EPA employee.

According to the IG, EPA’s peer review policy states that “for influential scientific information intended to support important decisions, or for work products that have special importance in their own right, external peer review is the approach of choice.”

However, the policy further states that “for highly influential scientific assessments, external peer review is the expected procedure.” According to the policy, external peer review involves reviewers who are “independent experts from outside EPA.”

In the course of the investigation requested by James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the EPA told IG investigators that the TSD was not “highly influential,” consisting only of science that was previously peer reviewed, such as “assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and the National Research Council (NRC).”

The IG has recommended to the EPA that the agency: 1) re-write the peer review handbook, 2) clearly differentiate between “highly influential scientific assessment” and more run-of-the-mill “influential scientific information”, and 3) revise assessment factors for accepting data from other organizations.

The office of the IG said it does not question the EPA’s scientific conclusions. “We did not test the validity of the scientific or technical information used to support the endangerment finding, nor did we evaluate the merit of EPA’s conclusions or analyses,” the office said.


The EPA issued its endangerment finding after the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the agency could regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. The agency then had to conclude the emissions were harmful before regulating them, Reuters said.

Inhofe has issued a statement saying that the endangerment finding was inadequate, Reuters reports.

“This report confirms that the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed,” Inhofe said in a release about the report, which cost nearly $300,000. Inhofe, who is writing a book on global warming called “The Hoax,” said he was calling for immediate hearings on the EPA issue.

According to the Washington Post, it is unclear whether the report will affect a legal challenge to the endangerment finding that several industries have mounted in federal court. The report is not expected to affect federal climate regulation, but it does provide fodder to those who question the government’s role in addressing global warming, the Post said.

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