EPA head: We don’t need to justify our regulations with data

ginaEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took a drumming yesterday when she refused to release the ‘secret science’ her agency used when drafting new regulations. Testifying before the House Science, Space and Technology committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R) began the Q&A by asking McCarthy why she wouldn’t release the studies and data in which her regulations are based. Rep. Smith told McCarthy that his ‘secret science’ reform act would make the data public without interfering in the EPA’s primary job and maintain the confidentiality of third parties.

Rep. Smith also quoted Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, saying “The data on which regulatory decisions are based should be made available to the committee and should be made public. Why don’t you agree with the president’s science adviser?” McCarthy replied that while she supports transparency in the regulatory process, the bill would make public the personal information of the people working on the science.

Smith reiterated that in his secret science reform act, personal information would be redacted but the underlying studies and data that are being used to justify costly regulations would be made public so that other scientists and the American people can review it. This is especially important as the EPA has a 60-day comment period after a new proposal is announced, but the science backing up the new regulations is not included. Smith’s new bill would rectify that issue.

McCarthy also said she “doesn’t actually need the raw data in order to develop science. That’s not how it’s done.”

Rep. Smith: “But why don’t you give us the data you have and why can’t you get the data you do have? Surely you have the data that you based the regulations on?”
McCarthy: “EPA actually has the authority and the need to actually get information that we have provided to you.”
Rep. Smith: “You’re saying you can’t give us the information because it is personal and then you’re saying you don’t have the information. Which is it?”
McCarthy: “There is much information we don’t have the authority to release.”

Rep. Smith reiterated again that any personal information would be redacted and once again asked why she won’t release this information after meeting all the criteria McCarthy used to justify not revealing the information. Rep. Smith reminded her that every other agency does this, so why can’t the EPA simply redact this personal information and release the underlying science on which the EPA’s regulations are based?

McCarthy stressed that the science is generated through the peer-reviewed process and not by the agency itself, prompting Rep. Smith to say that by not showing the American people and the Congress the studies and data they used to make new regulations, it looks like the EPA has something to hide. Rep. Smith said there was no good reason other scientists couldn’t review the data, no good reason his committee couldn’t review it, and most importantly, no good reason the American people can’t review it.

Changing topics, Rep. Smith asked McCarthy about the Clean Power Plan, reminding her that after spending enormous amounts of money and implementing burdensome regulations, which would increase the costs of electricity and hurt the poorest Americans, it would only lower global temperatures 1/100 of a degree. “How do you justify such an expensive, burdensome, onerous rule that isn’t going to do much good?…Isn’t this all pain and no gain?”

McCarthy admitted the goal of the Clean Power Plan was to show strong domestic action, which can trigger strong global action, e.g., getting other countries to follow our lead. McCarthy refused to say if Rep. Smith’s analysis of the minuscule effect on global temperatures was correct, stating again it was more about leading on a global scale. She also refused to give Rep. Smith a timetable on when he could expect supporting documentation that he had been requesting for months.

Later in the hearing, Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R) was shocked that McCarthy did not have any idea what percentage of the atmosphere was made up of carbon dioxide (CO2). Stunned by this admission, Rohrabacher said, “You’re head of the EPA and you did not know? …Now you are basing policies that impact dramatically on the American people and you didn’t know what the content of CO2 in the atmosphere was… the justification for the very policies you’re talking about?”

McCarthy: “If you’re asking me how much CO2 is in the atmosphere, not a percentage but how much, we have just reached levels of 400 parts per million.”
Rohrabacher: “I think I was very clear on what I was asking. I think it was very clear you didn’t know.”

This is not the first time McCarthy has flunked basic science. In a Senate hearing in March, McCarthy was unaware of climate data showing no increase in extreme weather. At that hearing, she was asking for additional money be dedicated to the president’s controversial Clean Power Plan, an initiative to limit CO2 emissions that are blamed for any type of bad weather.

As previously reported here, CO2 levels reached a global level of 400 parts per million (ppm) in March, even though global temperatures have not risen for nearly 19 years. You can find 400 carbon dioxide molecules per one million parts of dry air. By volume, “dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide (.04% since March), and small amounts of other gases.” Carbon dioxide levels vary between 390 and 400 ppm and change seasonally as more plant life is around to absorb it in the spring and summer.

Complete video of her testimony can be viewed here.

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