Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Self-Inflicted Wound At Obama's EPA

EPA's own Inspector General (IG) has published a report criticizing the process by which EPA made its endangerment finding for greenhouse gases (GHGs), which is a prerequisite for regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act. The gist of the IG's complaint was that EPA's process for reviewing the climate science was procedurally flawed, even though EPA relied primarily on scientific findings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some of the IG's complaints appear minor, even trivial, such as the fact that one person on the 12-member peer-review board of scientists was an EPA employee. But that hardly excuses the procedural shortcuts. When it comes to a hot-button political issue like regulating GHGs to mitigate climate change, failing to dot the i's and cross the t's is like handing a loaded gun to Senator James Inhofe, the Republican presidential candidates (excluding John Huntsman), and other climate-change ignoramuses, who will gladly use it to take pot shots at the agency.

EPA officials and environmental groups have been  quick to defend the endangerment finding on the merits, and no doubt that they are on solid ground (although the Clean Air Act remains a relatively poor vehicle for regulating GHGs). But that is beside the point. The agency has, by its procedural negligence, invited a political fight it did not need and might not win.

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