“If the EPA were to have done that with the regulations being proposed here … it is quite likely that their original Endangerment Finding would have to be revised and potentially overturned.”
The public comment period for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units closed on June 25, 2012. A number of extensive comments were submitted arguing that the basis of the Endangerment Finding—that human greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations”—has become so outdated as to require a thorough re-assessment.
Strong cases were made that the EPA failed to completely consider new and influential scientific results which have a direct relevance to the impact that climate change as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions may have on the public health and welfare. Overwhelmingly, the “missing” science from the EPA’s support documents included evidence that either lessened the certainty that human GHG emissions were behind the observed changes in the climate, or provided examples of positive impacts resulting from climate change on human health and welfare.
It is a recipe for pure waste and unintented consequences if EPA continues to propose regulations based upon static, even outdated, science in a field where the scientific knowledge-base is rapidly evolving. In his public comment to the EPA, the Cato Institute’s Dr. Patrick Michaels neatly described this situation:
[N]o static report can provide long-term guidance as to the nature of climate change and its impacts as this field is constantly evolving under the weight of new scientific findings. Consequently, it is imperative EPA reassess the current scientific understanding on an annual basis, if not continuously. If the EPA were to have done that with the regulations being proposed here (consideration of my comments and Addendum would have been an appropriate place to start) it is quite likely that their original Endangerment Finding would have to be revised and potentially overturned.
Relying on dated and incomplete science in a rapidly evolving environment will almost certainly lead to poor regulations. In the name of science and in the spirit of responsible government, the EPA must revisit the Endangerment Finding before adopting sweeping regulations with potentially enormous economic and social implications.
As a demonstration that, indeed, new science (as well as overlooked or ignored science) can supplant existing science in many important topic areas related to climate change, Dr. Michaels included in his comments to the EPA a draft of a major report that he has been editing which serves as a re-evaluation of the potential impacts of climate change on the United States. Dr. Michaels views his report as an “Addendum” to the 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program’s “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States”—a report which synthesizes some 21 reports issued by the USGCRP since the early 2000s.
The final version of Dr. Michaels’ Addendum is planned to be released in late summer or early fall, but in the meantime, the Fourth Order Draft iscurrently available from the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Public Science and Public Policy and is well worth a look. It is especially insightful to compare, side-by-side, Dr. Michaels’ Addendum to the original USGCRP report (available here).
In addition to Dr. Michaels’ comment on new science overlooked by the EPA, Peabody Energy Company (the world’s largest private-sector coal company) submitted an extensive and detailed set of comments which included a lot of focus on new science missed by the EPA—science which Peabody argues should require that the EPA reassess their Endangerment Finding.