Is EPA hiding the ball on its Endangerment Finding?


Author:  Luke A. Wake

On February 5, 2010, Pacific Legal Foundation officially petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its decision to finalize its Endangerment Finding on greenhouse gases. In its Endangerment Finding, EPA had concluded that greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming and therein pose a danger to human health and welfare. Now PLF has not challenged the factual accuracy of these determinations; we were concerned with whether EPA has met its statutory duties under the Clean Air Act, specifically its duty to submit all relevant information to its Science Advisory Board. In connection to our petition for reconsideration, we also filed a Freedom of Information Act request for internal documents shedding light on the process through which the Endangerment Finding was promulgated.

Now we submitted our FOIA request on December 17, 2009 and have still to receive any of the documents requested. EPA was supposed to provide us with those documents within 20 days. Oddly, more than 90 days later, EPA has yet to respond.  

In late January, I spoke with an EPA agent who said that the request was being processed and would soon be delivered. In fact, they haven't even responded to my follow up letter on March 3, 2010. Perhaps they are dragging their feet because they realize they’re Endangerment Finding is in a lot of trouble.

As we argued in our petition for reconsideration, and in our FOIA request, it is important that EPA restore public confidence in its Endangerment Finding by being open and honest about its proceedings, especially in light of the serious questions and the possibility of data tampering implicated by the scandal at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU). Many of the challenges now pending against the Endangerment Finding are based on the fact that EPA based its Endangerment Finding in large part upon CRU data implicated in the scandal. Indeed, a substantial portion of the data upon which EPA relied in its Endangerment Finding was produced at CRU, and may have been compromised according to some reports.

As you may know, that scandal exploded after someone leaked CRU emails on the internet, after CRU officials failed to comply with an English FOIA request. Lets hope EPA will be a little more forthright. This is not the time to be hiding the ball.