Monday, October 17, 2011

Cuccinelli on EPA internal investigation showing agency failed to follow its own rules

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

RICHMOND, VA (October 5, 2011) – In a report issued last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own inspector general found that the EPA failed to follow federal rules for ensuring the quality of the outside data on which it relied to arrive at its conclusion that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are a threat to human health and welfare. The agency relied on research provided by other organizations, such as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as the primary scientific basis for its finding, rather than conducting its own research. The EPA’s December 2009 “endangerment finding” for greenhouse gases gave it an unprecedented power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as pollutants.

Today, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli released this statement:

“From the time Virginia filed its challenge to the EPA’s endangerment finding in February 2010, we have stressed that our challenge was a legal one – designed to demonstrate that the regulations the EPA was attempting to force upon the country were the result of shortcutting proper procedures and the law. We have always maintained that EPA failed to follow its own rules and other federal rules, such as the Data Quality Act, in pushing its agenda and the endangerment finding forward. We also said that the EPA did not even do the most basic step of certifying that the outside data it used to make its determination complied with the agency’s data quality standards. Now, the EPA’s own inspector general has investigated the matter and has concluded that the EPA did not follow some of these very rules.

“As attorney general, I have not sued the federal government because I disagree with it over a policy; I have only brought suit when the federal government does not follow the law or proper procedures. The EPA’s shortcutting of proper procedures so it could vastly expand its regulatory authority over the American people is one such instance.

“While the EPA and other federal agencies are already circling the wagons in an effort to dispute the report, the fact that the EPA’s own inspector general concluded that the agency did not comply with its own rules speaks volumes.

“I fully expected supporters of the greenhouse gas endangerment finding would argue and will continue to argue that the violations identified in the investigation are only technicalities. But these rules were put in place to guarantee that the regulatory process was not hijacked by a political agenda – by either party. Both scientists and government officials should operate in transparent ways, and the rules that the EPA failed to follow were designed to guarantee such transparency and to make certain that its conclusions were sound and based on the best available scientific data.

“We have asked the EPA since February 2010 to simply reopen its hearings and review its finding while following proper rules and procedures, as well as allow new, conflicting evidence that has become available since the original finding. When the agency refused, we asked the courts to compel it to do so, and we are awaiting a hearing date.

“The EPA’s failure to follow its own rules calls into question everything it has done. True science is testable, and true scientists willingly show their work and allow others to test their data, hypotheses, and conclusions. Whenever a government agency states a conclusion that is allegedly based on science, but refuses to comply with its own rules that require it to ‘show its work,’ we should all be concerned.”

On September 26, 2011, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General issued its Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes. The report concluded that the EPA violated its own internal rules regarding the handling and review of data and violated other applicable rules promulgated by the federal government, including certain provisions of the Data Quality Act. Specifically, the inspector general concluded that, because EPA’s actions constituted a “highly influential scientific assessment,” the EPA had failed to meet the relevant procedural standards, including, but not limited to:

  • rather than performing its own research, the EPA accepted work done by others, including the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the agency failed in its “responsibility to determine whether the data met EPA’s information quality guidelines before disseminating the information.” This is a key component of Virginia’s complaint;
  • of the EPA’s failures in this regard, perhaps the most notable one found by the inspector general was the EPA’s failure to address whether the IPCC’s peer reviewers were devoid of conflicts of interest;
  • the EPA “did not certify that the supporting technical information was peer reviewed in accordance with EPA’s peer review policy”;
  • the EPA’s own peer review panel “did not meet the independence requirements… because one of the panelists was an EPA employee”;
  • the results of the EPA’s improperly constituted peer review panel “were not made available to the public as is required for a peer review of highly influential scientific assessment”;
  • the EPA also failed to appropriately identify the level of scientific information and assessments it was using to support its action;
  • the EPA failed to “[p]repare a complete analytic blueprint outlining its approach for reviewing the technical data needed to support its action” despite EPA’s own guidelines recommending that a blueprint be prepared; and
  • at multiple points in the process “EPA did not maintain a record of its response and disposition of comments for the two TSDs [technical support documents] that accompanied the proposed and final rules.”

The inspector general’s report can be found here. In a statement issued two days after the report, the inspector general stated, “EPA disagreed with our conclusions and did not agree to take any corrective actions in response to this report.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, State Politics

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