EPA rejects petitions challenging GHG endangerment finding

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 30 -- The US Environmental Protection Agency rejected 10 petitions challenging climate science behind its Dec. 7, 2009, finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and the environment, and therefore can be regulated under the federal Clean Air Act.

EPA ruled on July 29 against the petitions by the US Chamber of Commerce and other organizations that asserted a conspiracy invalidates findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the US Global Climate Change Research Program were based on a conspiracy.

EPA said it found no evidence to support the claims, and that its several months of review showed that “climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger,” it said in a statement. The agency issued its endangerment finding after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that GHGs fit within the CEA’s definition of pollutants. It covers emissions of six gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride).

“The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the US and around the world,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “These petitions—based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy—provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare.”

‘Strong concerns’
Robin S. Conrad, executive director of the US Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center, expressed disappointment over EPA’s decision, and said it would be appealed. “The US Chamber, policymakers, numerous trade groups, state governments, and businesses throughout the country have collectively raised strong concerns about the significant negative impact EPA’s endangerment finding will have on jobs and local economies,” she said.

The petitioners made four basic assertions which were rejected, EPA said. The first was that e-mails uncovered at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Evidence Unit showed evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate global temperature data. EPA said that its review of the messages “found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets.” Four other independent reviews came to similar conclusions, it added.

The second assertion was that errors in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report called the entire body of work into question. EPA said that it was only able to confirm two of the alleged errors in a 3,000-page report, and that neither had no bearings on its endangerment finding.

A third assertion that certain studies were excluded from the IPCC report, making the report biased and unreliable, was incorrect since the studies actually were part of the report, according to EPA.

It said that the fourth assertion that new scientific studies refuting evidence supporting the endangerment finding was incorrect since it misinterpreted the studies’ results. “Contrary to their claims, many of the papers they submit as evidence are consistent with EPA’s finding,” the agency maintained. Other studies which the petitioners submitted were based on unsound methodologies, it added.

Decision welcomed
Environmental organizations applauded EPA’s latest decision. “Today, EPA took the US Chamber of Commerce and other climate deniers to school,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “The evidence for the argument against the Endangerment Finding is simply not there. Nor is there support from the public for such claims.”

"There is clear and overwhelming scientific evidence that pollution is changing our climate,” said Kevin Curtis, director of the Alliance for Climate Protection. “This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that climate change is ‘undeniable’ and the past decade was the warmest on record. EPA was right to uphold the finding that climate change is a real threat to human health.”

Jackson said, “Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy. A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation, and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security.”

Conrad said the Chamber and other groups continue to support efforts to address climate change which help the US economy grow, increase domestic energy security, and improve the environment. “We continue to call for Congress to work through the legislative process, rather than having EPA misapply environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act, which was not created to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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