Commentary

The EPA to the Greens: So Sue Us!

The Environmental Protection Agency has just announced that it will not meet a Sept. 30 deadline to issue new rules limiting emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. This comes on the heels of a recent directive by President Barack Obama that the Agency delay issuing standards for ozone that would have shut down many of these plants.

Enviros are mad. So sue the EPA. I think that may be what it wants, and I want it also.

At some point this will happen: Green petitioners will cite the Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. EPA, which compels the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if it finds, as it did on Dec. 7, 2009, that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “endanger” human health and welfare. The Court held that the regulatory authority resided in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments passed in the first Bush Administration.

[O]ur government conducts exceedingly sloppy climate science and gets away with it.”

The EPA largely based its finding of endangerment to U.S. citizens upon a document produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP; a federal consortium) called “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.” If there’s a lawsuit, this document is going to finally receive the public scrutiny it has long deserved.

The document’s senior writer is Susan J. Hassol, a former HBO producer of climate horror flicks. The co-chairs, editors-in-chief, and team of authors are the who’s who of Big Climate Science. Not one of these had any incentive to produce anything but an alarmist screed.

Which they did. It is very slick and, in important places, blatantly wrong. In fact, it’s really hard to find a single paragraph that isn’t missing some important climate fact or research article that would greatly dilute the message of horror. There are errors so big that one cannot believe that it was peer-reviewed, but it most certainly was.

My favorite — and one that will certainly be prominently noted when the greens sue — is on page 58. It is an illustration from which the USGCRP preposterously states that “The number of incidents [power outages] caused by extreme weather has increased tenfold since 1992.” Here:

image

I’ve seen this everywhere. A Nobel Prize winner (who’s name I have been asked not to reveal), with no real experience in the study of climate change impacts, shows it wherever he can. Lacking critical insight, he finds it compelling and meaningful.

What it really means is that our government conducts exceedingly sloppy climate science and gets away with it. If the figure were true, there were apparently NO power outages caused by temperature extremes, wildfires, winter weather, thunderstorms and lightning in 1992. The fact is that both then and now, even a modestly severe thunderstorm knocks out power in Washington, where most of the authors spend a lot of time. Or how about 1995? No outages were caused by wind, hurricanes, wildfires, or winter weather, even though Category 3 Hurricane Opal hit north Florida (and, in fact, put 2 million in the dark).

A “tenfold” increase in weather-caused outages is preposterous. There’s been no change in strong tornado frequency, tropical cyclone activity is near historic lows, and any observed changes in mean or extreme winds are nugatory. Even the UN’s politicized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds “insufficient evidence” for any trend in lightning strikes.

If greens are reluctant to sue the EPA while Obama is president, just wait a few years. If, as many believe (and I have no opinion on this), the nation is headed towards a change of party in both the Senate and the Executive Branch, be certain that there will be legislation to strip the Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases.

No can do, will go the lawsuit. After all, Mass. v. Epa holds that, once EPA finds “endangerment” from carbon dioxide and its ilk, then it must regulate, obviously to the point where there is no longer endangerment.

Consequently, the EPA will have to somehow reverse its finding. That means completely disavowing the USGCRP report and its constellation of star authors, unless, of course, a new Congress specifically re-writes the Clean Air Act to eliminate any reference to carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases. That’s a tall order. Old hands will remind lawmakers of how many Congressional seats the George W. Bush administration lost when it (correctly) noted that arsenic standards were unrealistic.

The bottom line is that, whoever is in power, there will be big pressure on the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. But, when the suits are brought, whether now or in another Administration, the outrageous “science” used to find “endangerment” will be revealed for all to see.

Patrick Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of Climate Coup: Global Warming’s Invasion of our Government and our Lives.