Wednesday, September 28, 2011

EPA CO2 Endangerment Finding Review by OIG

The US EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released today its report titled “Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment FindingData Quality Processes.”

It is important to note that this was a Procedural review and not a Substantive review of the underlying science.   Procedural review merely means comparing the procedures that EPA used to what is required under the various laws and regulations.   Substantive review means evaluating the data and science that EPA relied on in forming their Endangerment Finding.   The Procedural rules that EPA must follow depend on whether the Technical Support Document (TSD) is a “highly influential scientific assessment” or not.  OIG considers the TSD to be a highly influential scientific assessment, but EPA did not.   There is a higher standard of care, or procedures that must be followed, for a highly influential scientific assessment.  It is these additional procedures that OIG found lacking in EPA’s work.


For some background, and a description of a TSD:  As the primary scientific basis for EPA’s finding, the [EPA] relied upon assessments conducted by other organizations [the IPCC, National Research Council, and US Global Change Research Program].  EPA summarized the results of these and other scientific assessments in a technical support document (TSD).  There are specified criteria by which a document is to be judged to determine if it is a highly influential scientific assessment.  OIG presents these criteria in its report as:

“A highly influential scientific assessment is a scientific assessment that: 
  • A) Could have a potential impact of more than $500 million in any
    year on either the public or private sector, or

    B) Is novel, controversial, or precedent setting, or has significant
    interagency interest.”

OIG stated the level of peer review for the highly influential scientific assessments, and goes on to say that:

“For highly influential scientific assessments, OMB guidance requires more attention to peer review consideration such as individual versus panel review, timing, scope of the review, selection of reviewers, disclosure and attribution, public participation, and disposition of reviewer comments. If the material to be disseminated falls within OMB’s definition of highly influential scientific assessment, OMB requires the agency to adhere to the peer review procedures identified in Section III of its bulletin.
OMG guidance also requires that agencies certify compliance with the requirements of the bulletin and information quality guidelines when using influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments to support a regulatory action. This certification and other relevant materials should be included in the administrative record for the action.”

Next, OIG discussed what the EPA did procedurally.  “EPA had the TSD reviewed by a panel of 12 federal climate change scientists. This review did not meet all [Office of Management and Budget] OMB requirements for peer review of a highly influential scientific assessment primarily because the review results and EPA’s response were not publicly reported, and because 1 of the 12 reviewers was an EPA employee.”

No public reporting of the 12 scientists’ review, no public reporting of EPA’s response to that review, and having an EPA staff member as one of the 12 scientists were cited as procedural errors. This is essentially, for the first two errors, a lack of transparency.  The public does not know what the reviewers found and reported, nor the EPA’s response, if any.  Were the findings unanimous?  Or, was there a split of opinion?  Did the EPA ignore the review panel’s findings?  At this point, we don’t know.   The obvious conflict of interest from the reviewer who is an EPA staff member should have made his or her opinion or vote irrelevant.   OMB requires an external peer review.

Reasons Given by EPA why TSD was not Considered a Highly Influential Scientific Assessment

“They [EPA} noted that the TSD consisted only of science that was previously peer reviewed and that these reviews were deemed adequate under the Agency’s policy. They also stated that, as described in the final Federal Register notice, the Administrator primarily relied upon assessments conducted by other organizations rather than the TSD, which summarizes the conclusions and findings of these other assessments.”

End Results

It appears that the OIG will allow the Endangerment Finding to stand, and is recommending only that EPA revise its procedures for future.   This could be a wrong interpretation, however nowhere in the OIG report is the EPA required to revise or re-issue the missing transparency documents, nor hold a second and independent review by qualified scientists. 

The fact that only procedures were evaluated means that the clearly false statements and conclusions of many of the peer-reviewed papers and documents were considered acceptable by EPA.  As reported earlier on SLB, the EPA accepted such wildly inaccurate statements as glaciers disappearing in the Himalayas.  Also, as the State of Texas wrote in their recent petition, regarding the Climategate emails,  

"[t]he emails do not reflect the work of objective
scientists dispassionately conducting their work and zealously pursuing the truth. Rather
they reveal a cadre of activist scientists colluding and scheming to advance what they
want the science to be—even where the empirical data suggest a different outcome." Also, "to the extent their [these scientists'] objectivity, impartiality, truthfulness, and scientific
integrity are compromised or in doubt, so too is the objectivity, impartiality, truthfulness,
and scientific integrity of the IPCC report, the CRU temperature data, the NOAA
temperature data, and other scientific research that is shown to have relied on their
compromised research."

Texas' petition also shows how the IPCC authors manipulated the climate temperature data, citing the by-now infamous email of using a "trick" to "hide the decline." Also, especially egregious data manipulation is discussed with Russian and New Zealand temperature data. Such manipulation showed undue warming. Also, the IPCC admitted they have lost critical climate data.

Then the real fun begins, with several major discredited claims, using non-peer-reviewed sources. These include Himalayan glaciers receding faster than anyone thought (the aren't). Also, Chinese temperature data was seriously flawed, and had no source documents. They made up the data. Next, the claim that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, and subject to inundation from sea level rise. This is erroneous, as only 26 percent is below sea level. The fourth and final example included in the Petition for Reconsideration is the wild claim that "up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rain forest could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation." This was from the non-scientific, but wildly agenda-driven World Wildlife Federation, the WWF.

Apparently, these types of "peer-reviewed" scientific conclusions on the impact of man-made CO2 on the planet's climate are acceptable to the US EPA.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

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