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EPA Inspector General Releases Report on Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve Essig


Yesterday, the U.S. EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report entitled "Procedural Review of EPA's Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes," which was conducted at the request of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. According to the report, the purpose of the review was "to determine whether EPA followed key federal Agency regulations and policies in obtaining, developing, and reviewing the technical data used to make and support its greenhouse gas endangerment finding," referring to EPA's "Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act," issued December 15, 2009. EPA had relied on assessments conducted by outside organizations, such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) (f/k/a U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP)), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the National Research Council (NRC), as the primary scientific basis for its endangerment finding, summarizing the results and conclusions of those assessments in its technical support document (TSD) accompanying the finding.

OIG found in its report that EPA had complied with statutory requirements for federal rulemaking and employed procedures to ensure the quality of supporting technical information. However, it disagreed with EPA's position that the TSD did not qualify as a "highly influential scientific assessment" under the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB's) requirements for peer review and went on to find that EPA had failed to meet the OMB's heightened requirements for such documents. Primarily, OIG found that EPA's peer review of the TSD by a panel of 12 federal climate change scientists was insufficient under the "highly influential scientific assessment" framework because the panel's findings and EPA's disposition of those findings were not available to the public and because one of the panelists was an EPA employee, causing the panel to fail independence requirements. The OIG also found certain other procedural shortcomings.

Some, including Sen. Inhofe, have publicly interpreted the report as undermining the validity and credibility of the endangerment finding and suggested that EPA took procedural shortcuts for political ends.

EPA issued a press release in response, stating that the report's findings have been "mischaracterized." EPA highlighted the fact that the report did not criticize or address the robustness of the underlying science or conclusions which informed the endangerment finding, emphasizing that the evaluation focused on procedural elements. It went on to state that even in that respect EPA "[disagrees] strongly" with the OIG's findings.

EPA is required to provide a written response to the report within 90 calendar days.

The full OIG report can be found here.

EPA's press release responding to the report can be found here.