It seems to me that “An Inconvenient Truth” gave President Obama a “free pass” when it came to justifying legislation for climate change. That is, since the movie, there has been an assumption that Congresss must address climate change and all that is left is the details. Apparently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce didn’t see the movie. netrs5kvhi
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that EPA was required to consider whether greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from new motor vehicle engines contribute to climate change that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. The Court gave EPA three options:
1) Find they do; or
2) Find they don’t; or
3) Give a reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to make the determination.
After reviewing 300,000 public comments and conducting two public hearings (not required by rule) to take additional testimony, EPA issued a proposed finding that six GHGs contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare and that emissions of four GHGs from new motor vehicle engines are contributing to air pollution which is endangering public health and welfare.
The Chamber, recognizing that the finding will result in major (and costly) emission limits being imposed on new cars, has requested EPA to hold a public hearing to put "the science of climate change on trial.” In an extremely unfortunate turn of phrase (later retracted), William Kovacs, the Chamber’s Senior Vice President for Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs, said it would be the“Scopes monkey trial of the 21st Century.” (I say unfortunate because it allowed Carl Pope, President of Sierra Club, and others, the opportunity to attack Mr. Kovac’s credibility by pointing out that the Scopes monkey trial was an incredible abuse of the judicial process in that it suppressed science—exactly the opposite of what the Chamber contends it wants to do at an EPA hearing).
The Chamber has filed an 84-page Petition and a 20-page supplemental filing in support of its request that there be a hearing on the EPA’s endangerment finding. In the Petition, the Chamber admits that EPA is not legally required to conduct a hearing (footnote 119). Rather, the Chamber implores and cajoles (I’m understating) EPA to be “open and transparent” in the rulemaking process and, given the enormous gravity and expense of the finding, to conduct an adversarial hearing on the question.
The Chamber contends that EPA has failed to properly identify the scientific basis for findings that GHGs endanger the public health and welfare. In their words (p. 6 of 79):
[Our] comments focus on whether the scientific evidence developed and relied upon by EPA adequately “connects the dots” to the extent required by law to satisfy EPA’s purported test for endangerment -- that local action contributes to global pollution which then endangers local public health and welfare -- and kick off the regulatory cascade the Proposal almost surely will engender.
It is interesting to note that the Chamber acknowledges that EPA has shown that atmospheric concentrations of GHGs are increasing (p. 7 of 79) and that the EPA could find that GHGs are potentially causing climate change (p. 8 of 79). Their complaint is that EPA hasn’t shown the science to support a finding that the GHGs are hurting anyone.
The Chamber’s point is a classic (and valid) cost/benefit analysis argument: There should be an adequate (i.e. scientific) showing of harm before billions are spent to correct the perceived problem.
While the Chamber may have a point, it certainly has the wrong forum and even worse timing.
EPA has done everything required of it by Massachusetts v. EPA and the rulemaking procedures. It has received and reviewed over 300,000 comments and it has held two hearings that were not required by the rules. The Chamber, and everyone else in the country, has been able to submit comments as contemplated by rulemaking procedures. Apparently, the Chamber doesn’t like the comments that were relied upon by EPA or the conclusion being proposed. But that is the nature of rulemaking. If the Chamber believes that an adversarial process, with witnesses and an administrative law judge, should be required to make rules, it needs to go to Congress and get the process changed (remembering, of course, that next time it might be the Chamber’s ox that is Gored).
Filing a petition for an arguably unavailable proceeding, after the extensive comment review by EPA, was as ill-conceived as calling it the next Scopes monkey trial. The Chamber will have its opportunity to make a legal challenge in the future and it has already promised to do so. Filing an 84-page Petition, consumed mostly with comments designed to shame EPA into a hearing by saying that it hasn’t been transparent enough (though it has gone beyond the rulemaking requirements) does not help the cause of those who believe that the United States is about to embark on a very expensive experiment.
And as to a trial, should there be one in the future, I would suggest that the Chamber be careful what it asks for. If it is determined that:
1) GHGs are increasing; and
2) The increase in GHGs is causing climate change; and
3) There are methods available to reduce GHGs,
does the Chamber really think that it’s going to win over public opinion that nothing should be done? Try as it might, the Chamber is not going to successfully relabel the movie "An Inconclusive Truth." Too much time has passed with too many people being too afraid of the science they have heard. In current jargon, the tipping point has come and gone. Before it loses all credibility, the Chamber should address the extent to which Congress should act. That, I would suggest, is the real battlefield.