Climate Audit Submission to EPA

A couple of months ago, I posted on the EPA Endangerment Finding. In Canada, the government would just go ahead and pass the regulations without the long U.S. regulatory processes. In practical terms, some odd coalitions can form for specific policies between people who are worried about energy supply or the impact of energy imports on the U.S. economy and people who are worried about climate. I’m not opposed to governments making decisions, even if I don’t agree with the decision.

Contrary to what people on the one hand assume and contrary to urgings of people on the other hand, I don’t actually have an opinion on the merits of this particular policy. But there is an aspect to the process that annoys me – the implicit laundering of past stonewalling and obstruction.

EPA guidelines require that highly influential scientific assessments meet a variety of sensible standards for transparency, data availability and due diligence – policies that CA readers know not to have been implemented by the IPCC. I discussed these issues in my prior post and have amplified these arguments in my submission which is online here EPA submission 3951.1 here

In the submission, I included a consideration of some interesting clauses from the EPA Peer Review Handbook (which appears to be incorporated by reference into EPA Guidelines.)

EPA has to carry out some required processes in order to use a scientific assessment by an external party (mentioning international bodies). One of the requirements is that external party has to submit the assessment to EPA, together with the peer review record, following which EPA officials are obliged to evaluate the material to ensure that if complies with EPA standards (which in this case appear to me to be considerably more rigorous than IPCC standards.)

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is obviously a public document, but it doesn’t appear to me that anyone bothered to submit it to EPA (together with the peer review record.) Such a submission would create some interesting issues for ongoing FOI obstruction, e.g. the withholding of Mitchell’s Review Comments and Ammann’s “private” review comments.

Indeed, the various discussions that we’ve had over the past months over IPCC’s amorphous legal status – i.e. IPCC participants having dual status as government employees, with their IPCC affiliation being applied to yield a cone of darkness over activities which would be subject to FOI if they were “merely” government employees.

Evasion of transparency has been a long-running concern of this site and I’ve used this comment opportunity to place this and related concerns on the record.


46 Comments

  1. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 3:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am unaware of any provision that disqualifies Canadians from commenting. If any U.S. reader wishes to, I would have no objection to them sending a two sentence comment with my comment as an attachment.

  2. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I note that in paragraph 28 you reference “paragraphs 27-29 above.” This obviously isn’t correct. Can you modify or edit your comments later or do it yet today?

  3. Dirk
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 3:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    I really, really enjoy your site because it offers insight into the process of reconcilling data to find truth.

    And while I too am not opposed to government action (I like the lines down the middle of roads), I am opposed to government action in the absence of truth. I suggest that, until we’ve reached a level of truth you’re comfortable with, you should begrudge government from making decisions based on what are unknowns- because what we do know is that the law of unintended consequences can cause real problems.

  4. MrPete
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 4:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Does anyone know the proper way to submit comments? At this late date, we must do it electronically.

    • Anthony Watts
      Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: MrPete (#4),

      Here is the fastest way:

      The URL for submitting comments to the EPA on GHG regulation. Just fill out the form, no need to put in anything about government connections, just your name and afilliation if any, and be sure to put the docket number somewhere in you comment along with your name and address if you wish.

      It is: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=090000648096894b

      The docket # is Re: Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OAR–2009–0171 Be sure to include that number in your submission. There’s also a place for attachments of PDF’s

      The question of the day is: should the EPA pay any attention to the work of James Hansen now that he has been arrested as an activist? Can a scientist turned activist produce a dataset (that is cited worldwide) free of bias?

  5. Ryan O
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 4:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    Sent email with some comments. Hopefully not too late! Glad you did this, BTW. ;)

  6. RomanM
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 5:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I also agree with Ryan, Steve. After reading a new AGW propaganda effort, when I stop yelling at each intentional exageration and obviously incorrect evaluation of what is going on, my reaction is to say: we have to tell people, check it out, theinformation in this document is just plain false! Way to go.

  7. Richard
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 5:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am surprised that an economist would not have an opinion on this. What happens to those who subsist when those who are wealthy choose to generate power in ways that are more wasteful of resources?

    Steve: I don’t want to discuss policy on this blog. However I observed that people who are worried about energy policy can form alliances on practical policies with people who are worried about climate. IMO climate scientists would present their case far more effectively if they complied with the standards of transparency and due diligence that I’ve consistently advocated. If it’s actually important to do something, then the Community should be policing prima donna scientists that fail to adhere to those standards, rather than supporting their obstruction.

  8. Shallow Climate
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 5:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Mr. McIntyre–
    As a lowly citizen of the USA, I thank you for all the time and effort put into your submission. I found it to be thoroughly absorbing reading, meticulously documented. I hope that “the powers that be” give it “due diligence”. Many, many thanks.

  9. jeez
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 6:37 PM | Permalink | Reply

    There just feels like some irony in the term “medieval reconstructions”.

  10. Daniel
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 7:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,
    Thanks for taking the time to do this. EPA must be held accountable.

  11. MrPete
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 8:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I have submitted a comment, with Steve’s document attached. Comment #809d6b57.

  12. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 8:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve just browsed through some of the online comments at regulations.gov (which doesn’t appear to be up to data – at least I couldn’t locate my comment, though I have an id number 809d6984.

    Whatever else one may think about my comment – it’s definitely traveling its own rather distinctive road. Whether the particular route is worth taking is a different question.

  13. John Andrews
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 9:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I submitted my comment and attached your pdf. Thanks. This task is overwhelming to me. I hope the EPA gets enough comments that it has to do a more in depth review before making its decision.

  14. Nicholas
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 9:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Mr. McIntyre, you wrote (in the conclusion):

    “EPA Guidelines require that IPCC submit the
    assessment report together with a complete peer review record to IPCC and that IPCC officials
    evaluate the assessment and peer review record for compliance with EPA (and OMB)
    Guidelines.”

    Should that read “… to EPA and that EPA officials …” ?

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 9:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Nicholas (#15),

      Arggh. I was tired when I pressed the button. I corrected and sent in an amended version, which I’ll place online here.

  15. Hank
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 9:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I left my comment late morning and got the tracking number of 806d639e. Having your problem, I threw together another this evening with the number 809d6d46. Neither has appeared. I believe that the posting process is not automatic.

    One can always fax.

    I admire your determination to dismantle the barriers people have thrown up. Sooner or later these guys are going to have to show a bit of their ankle. What they need is a depantsing. It all puts me in mind of the battle between Crick and Watson on the one hand and Rosalind Franklin on the other. Watson has said somewhere or other that the essence of science is communication. When he said it I surmised he was referencing Ms. Franklin and her possessive feelings about her crystallography pictures.

  16. Marine_Shale
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 9:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Great submission Steve. I love the way you have tied so many of the strands of your work into a concise and coherent document that will be very difficult to ignore.
    The reason I am writing though is to check that you really meant IPCC officials in this section and not EPA officials.

    <EPA Guidelines require that IPCC submit the
    assessment report together with a complete peer review record to IPCC and that IPCC officials
    evaluate the assessment and peer review record for compliance with EPA (and OMB)
    Guidelines. It is highly doubtful that either such a submission or such an evaluation ever
    happened.>

    Regards

  17. jae
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 9:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    LOL. Steve Mc, you could be (and maybe are) a great lawyer! Perhaps some law firm will carry this idea foreward.

  18. Hank
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 10:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The supremest court is already in this thing…. saying the the EPA must decide if CO2 is an endangerment. It would be great if they took up Steve’s issue. It’s a pretty fundamental kind of thing for science … and saying that the EPA must decide, isn’t the next logical step that it must decide in a proper way? Of course, judging by the elaborate rules regarding openness that have already been constructed, and imagining the all the kinds of past contention that could have arisen when experts construct rules for industry, maybe there is already an ample body of case law out there. Maybe somebody will need to file a suit at the appropriate time – but of course lawyers cost money.

  19. Scott Brim
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 10:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Submission of Stephen McIntyre, Climate Audit,
    Page 5, Paragraph 19:

    19. OMB Guidelines state that the “principal findings” in “official reports of the National Academy of Sciences” are generally presumed not to require additional peer review, but that all other highly influential scientific assessments require a review meeting the standards of Section III:.

    There are those who will argue that OMB Guidelines are simply that: guidelines which are intended as a “best practices” type of advice, but which do not have the force of a true procedural requirement.
    .
    However, suppose those of Steve’s comments which are based upon the OMB guidelines referenced by Paragraph 19 actually gain traction in the EPA’s comment review and disposition process — either within the EPA itself, or as a result of external fallout from a final EPA decision.
    .
    If this happened, I suspect there would then be a strong temptation among some in the National Academy of Sciences to have NAS publish an official report which essentially adopts the full list of IPCC AR4 conclusions as NAS “principal findings” thus allowing Section III to be neutralized, for all practical purposes.

    • Hank
      Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 12:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Scott Brim (#21),
      A distinct possibility on what the National Academy of Sciences would do. When they do that we will call them a rubber-stamp organization.

  20. John A
    Posted Jun 23, 2009 at 10:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Could I make the suggestion that Steve refer to himself in the document as : Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit (www.climateaudit.org) or make the link available somewhere as a reference or footnote?

    • AndyL
      Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: John A (#22),
      John A: Reference to ClimateAudit is on the last page

  21. rafa
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 1:22 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Dear Steve, thanks!

  22. PhilipM
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 3:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Awesome.

  23. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 3:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    It is hard to think of a time in the history of science when a submission such as yours was needed. Thank you for doing it so well. It WAS needed.

  24. L Nettles
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 7:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Come on boys and girls, Steve deserves some beer money for this, time to hit the tip jar. Nothing quite says thanks like cash.

  25. J Solters
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Your comment to EPA regarding obligations to follow their own “procedural requirements” for data verification is especially pertinent because courts will frequently remand cases back to an agency for procedural errors such as this. While agencies (EPA) have fairly broad discretion in making specific factual determinations, the factual findings can (and usually will) be remanded for further proceedings if the agency failed to follow its own guidelines and procedures to ascertain basic facts. Ram-roding alleged AGW theory and “facts” down the public’s throat won’t be as easy as EPA thinks, particularly in this case with huge, long lasting economic impact on the general public.

  26. L Nettles
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    3) a March 17 email from Mr. McGartland to Mr. Carlin, stating that he will not forward Mr. Carlin’s study. “The time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed for this round. The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision… I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office.” (Emphasis added);

    From internal EPA emails reported here

    http://cei.org/cei_files/fm/active/0/Endangerment%20Comments%206-23-09.pdf

    • Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 3:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: L Nettles (#30),

      Did you see the bit where he gets assigned more work for even bringing it up? I think Mr. Carlin is going to be audited soon.

  27. PhilipM
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 1:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I like this bit best (my bold):-

    The IPCC rules for reviewing draft reports
    have served the scientific and policy communities well for numerous past
    international assessment rounds. If there is further evidence that you can
    not accept them, or if your intent is to use your access to the review
    process to challenge them
    , then we will not be able to continue to treat you
    as an expert reviewer for the IPCC.

    So which is more important; process or procedure?

  28. Jim
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 4:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    All we need to do is point an ambulance-chasing lawyer in the general direction of the EPA after our electric and other energy bills go up. What a grand class action suit that would make!!

  29. AKD
    Posted Jun 24, 2009 at 9:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    There are some pretty remarkable comments from “Anonymous” (EPA employee) at WUWT:

    anonymous (17:51:36) :

    Folks, I work at EPA and am unfortunate enough to actually know exactly what happened. Alan Carlin knows more about climate change science than most of the people on the EPA work group that wrote the endangerment proposal. The claim that he is simply an economist is a deep disservice to Alan and is patently false. Further, the work group refused to consider his arguments because they “don’t know how to weigh them against the IPCC report” – suggesting they won’t be able to evaluate the public comments either. Notably, others at EPA agree with Alan’s analysis which EPA will make public (so they say). If they actually release the report Alan sent forward, and don’t take his extremely critical statements out, it will embarrass the Agency badly. That will be a shame, but it is what the Agency has earned for itself.

    I would like to give my name, but I don’t wish to be punished in the same manner as Alan.

    This is a deeply sad set of events for EPA and for the nation.

    REPLY: Doing a quick Google Search on the email he provided, I can vouch for the claim of this poster working with the EPA – Anthony

    anonymous (18:26:47) :

    Re: Tom Fuller (18:08:13) :

    I respect Tom’s willingness to listen to both sides in this matter. He simply is not privy to the facts. Alan was muzzled. Others who tried to get the work group to evaluate his arguments ran into a brick wall. It is not that Alan’s comments were flawed. It is that the people who were in charge wanted him taken out of the process and his report “disappeared”. This was “politics” pure and simple. The arguments were ignored for lack of expertise in climate science. Indeed, when an investigation was done to determine how many full time equivalents (bureaucratise for “people”) EPA has with actual first hand knowledge on how to use the kind of GCMs upon which the IPCC relied, the answer was half a person (a person half time). I’m not sure, but I don’t think that person was actually on the work group. I don’t recall seeing his name on it, in any case.

    Tom, there are going to be a lot of questions about this transaction. I am not permitted to give details, but I expect Congressional inquiries will force most of the facts out. If they don’t, then I don’t really know what to say.

    I’m prepared to go on background on this if you are serious about finding out the facts.

    Reply: May I forward your email to Tom Fuller? ~ charles the moderator.

    • Posted Jul 4, 2009 at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: AKD (#34),

      anonymous (17:51:36) :
      Folks, I work at EPA and am unfortunate enough to actually know exactly what happened. Alan Carlin knows more about climate change science than most of the people on the EPA work group that wrote the endangerment proposal. The claim that he is simply an economist is a deep disservice to Alan and is patently false.

      It’s a pity then that he didn’t make a submission based on that knowledge rather than ‘cut and paste’ from WRC!

  30. theduke
    Posted Jun 25, 2009 at 1:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve: your submission is a magnificent document and may well provide a solid legal foundation for challenges to this endangerment finding in the future.

  31. AKD
    Posted Jun 25, 2009 at 1:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Another pertinent commment from “anonymous”:

    anonymous (12:14:17) :

    RE: Patterson (10:32:39) :

    The internal process and the external are not the same. The internal process is kept within the agency and it is not appropriate for an EPA employee to discuss what went on within that process. What happend to Alan Carlin clearly was outside that process. I will leave to others to investigate the internal process, including what else was not considered by the Endangerment work group.

    As for the external process, known as the public comment process, I don’t think anything will be “excluded.” The question will be whether it will be ignored or given little attention. That remains to be seen. What is clear is that Alan Carlin will not be allowed to help in that process.

  32. MikeN
    Posted Jun 26, 2009 at 2:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    From the Peer-Review Handbook

    Any scientific and/or technical work product that is used in Agencydecision making and
    is considered major becomes a candidate for peer review regardless of whether the work product
    is produced bythe Agencyor another organization.

    If possible, when EPA knows that a work product is being generated byanother
    organization and is of interest to EPA for future use, the appropriate EPA office(s) should work
    with that organization, and others, as appropriate (e.g., the states), to promote the use of peer
    review. For example, the Office of International Activities (OIA) as well as the impacted
    program or regional office(s) should be included when international products arebeing
    considered for EPA use.
    It is hoped that if the other organization has the work product independentlypeer
    reviewed, the peer review will meet the intent of the Agency’s Peer Review Policy and EPA’s
    proposed use of the product (i.e., the peer review is basically equivalent to what EPA would do).
    Agency staff from the appropriate office(s) should examine closely the particulars of the peer
    review to ensureindependence and a conscious effort to incorporate the peer reviewers’
    comments into the final work product. If there are perceived, orreal, conflicts of interest, this
    may preclude the use of that peer review and, in those instances, another peer review would be
    needed.

    There may be circumstances where a work product is considered major, but a decision
    for no peer review can then be justified. For example:
    a)
    Additional peer review is not required with work that has been previously
    reviewed byrecognized experts or an expert body. For example, a cancer risk
    assessment methodology or an exposure modeling technique that was the subject
    of earlier peer review would not require additional peer review, even if the
    product supported a significant Agency decision.
    b)
    Additional peer review is not required if an application of an adequatelypeer
    reviewed work product does not depart significantly from its scientific or
    technical approach.
    c)
    Additional peer review is not required when the scientific and/or technical
    methodologies or information being used are commonly accepted in the field of
    expertise (e.g., Control Techniques Guidelines (CTGs) or other such
    compilations). This would need the appropriate documentation to support the
    commonly held view.

  33. MikeN
    Posted Jun 26, 2009 at 2:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    There may be instances where parties external to EPA will want to conduct and/or pay
    for a peer review on a particular work product (presumablytheir own work product or one they
    are closely interested in, or theywouldn’t be interested in expending resources). This may look
    benign at first blush, but is a very complex and sensitive situation that can raise significant
    concerns for perceived and/or actual conflicts of interest for interested parties “paying” for a peer
    review of their own work product. While the Agency cannot prevent external parties from
    conducting and paying for a peer review, it is desirable that any such peer review meets the
    intent of the Agency’s PeerReview Policyand adheres to the principles and guidance in this
    Handbook. If the external party submits their work product and accompanying peer review, the
    materials will be treated by the Agencyas anything else submitted for the Agency’s evaluation.
    We will evaluate the work product and the peer review for scientific credibilityand
    validity before making anydecisions based on the materials.
    [This issue is under active Agency consideration at this time; therefore, users of this Handbook
    should be aware that the language in Section 3.4.7 will likely change in the future.]

  34. mpaul
    Posted Jun 27, 2009 at 6:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    CNET has picked up the story of the suppression of Alan Carlin’s report.

  35. mpaul
    Posted Jun 27, 2009 at 6:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

  36. Jaye Bass
    Posted Jun 29, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I saw Inhofe interviewed on Fox News this morning, regarding Carlin’s report. He basically said that the climate bill was DOA in the Senate.

  37. Hank
    Posted Jul 4, 2009 at 9:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I notice that the comment period over at the EPA has been extended in an informal way:

    “Late comments may still be submitted on the proposed rule; however, the Clean Air Act does not require that the Environmental Protection Agency consider comments submitted past the end of the official comment period June 23, 2009, when developing the final rule. Nonetheless, we will continue to consider comments received after the close of the comment period, to the extent practicable.”

    http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

  38. Hank
    Posted Jul 4, 2009 at 1:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Hey Phil – What’s WRC? Also, in the spirit of keeping the pot stirred. Don’t you think that a whistleblower over at EPA undermines the legal case for scientific certainty? If the evidence of the models, etc. is compelling I can’t imagine that anything from WRC (whatever that may be) and Carlin could really sway the administrator.
    There is only one person at the top of an agency. I can’t believe it was a smart move not to pass Carlin’s report up the food chain and trust that one’s superiors would correctly judge its value.

  39. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 9, 2009 at 9:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

    EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171-3827.1.pdf
    http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/contentStreamer?objectId=09000064809d6ad5&disposition=attachment&contentType=pdf

6 Trackbacks

  1. [...] June, which considered this specific issue in considerable detail. See submission here, covering post here and first post on the topic [...]

  2. [...] June, which considered this specific issue in considerable detail. See submission here, covering post here and first post on the topic [...]

  3. [...] June, which considered this specific issue in considerable detail. See submission here, covering post here and first post on the topic [...]

  4. [...] The usual suspects got in on the act — here’s Steve McIntyre discussing his own reasons for becoming involved in the EPA bashing: [...]

  5. [...] was first raised at CA shortly after the release of the Endangerment Finding – see tag and here. My submission to EPA directly addressed this topic and included a review of relevant [...]

  6. By Stocker’s Earmarks « Climate Audit on Jan 12, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    [...] June 23, 2009, I posted up my submission to EPA. (Re-reading this submission, I thought that it has held up well.) The [...]

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