- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency told House lawmakers today that the Obama EPA "short-shrifted" its work on the 2009 carbon endangerment finding, calling its analysis into question.
- Administrator Scott Pruitt said the Obama EPA committed a "breach of process" by incorporating climate data from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "as the core of the [endangerment] finding."
- Pruitt also told lawmakers EPA is planning a "red team-blue team" review of climate science next year, potentially as soon as January. Pruitt will return to the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee for more questioning at 2 p.m. today.
The EPA's 2009 endangerment finding set the legal foundation for the agency to regulate carbon as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
The Supreme Court ordered EPA to conduct the analysis in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, saying it had to ascertain whether greenhouse gas pollution was a threat to public health.
During Pruitt's appearance before the Energy and Commerce Committee today, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said the Obama administration "rushed through" the final document, claiming the finding was completed in about 60 days.
Pruitt noted that the George W. Bush administration had worked on the endangerment finding before Obama took office, but he agreed with Barton that his predecessor's agency had "accelerated" the process.
"In fact there was something done in 2009 that in my estimation has never been done since and was never done before," Pruitt said. "[The EPA] took work from the UN IPCC and transported it to the agency and adopted it as the core of the finding."
That, Pruitt said, amounts to a "breach of process" at the agency that "many believe was not handled the proper way."
"The Mass. v. EPA decision and the processes that followed involved both the Bush and the Obama administrations and that process was again, in 2009, I think, short-shrifted," Pruitt said.
In fact, the EPA's 2009 release shows that the Bush administration had determined itself in 2007 that greenhouse gases pose public health threats. The EPA declined to release that document — only making it available to certain lawmakers under special secrecy provisions — until after Obama took office. Reporting from 2008 shows the Bush White House was dismissive of the endangerment finding, with staffers even refusing to open emails regarding it.
Barton, set to resign over a nude photo and texting scandal, then asked Pruitt about the status of his "red team-blue team" review of climate science. Revealed by E&E News in June, the internal review is seen by many as an attempt to discredit established science on global warming.
Pruitt said EPA has been conducting an internal review of climate science for months, which he hopes to announce "as soon as January of next year." In justifying the review, he referenced his qualms with the use of IPCC data, saying Americans deserve an "objective, transparent, real-time review" of climate science.
"I think one of the most important things we can do for the American people is provide that discussion, and it hasn’t happened," Pruitt said. "As I indicated, the agency borrowed the work product of a third party. We have to ensure that discussion occurs."
Pruitt has so far resisted calls from conservative activists to challenge the 2009 endangerment finding, but his testimony to E&C could provide a blueprint to do just that. If Pruitt considers the timing and use of IPCC data in the endangerment finding to be inappropriate, he could push to alter it with climate science he views more favorably.
Any move to unravel the endangerment finding would be met with lawsuits from liberal states and environmental groups, likely forcing the EPA to prove in a court of law that greenhouse gases are not a public health threat. That would be a heavy lift, but Pruitt's team could ostensibly use the findings of his hand-picked internal climate panel.
Pruitt's appearance before E&C Thursday morning was only part of his testimony. Called out for a White House meeting on the renewable fuel standard, Pruitt is expected to return for more questioning at 2 p.m. today.