- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II has filed a reply brief on behalf of Virginia, Texas and 13 other states in his lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s findings in December 2009 that greenhouse gases are harmful to human health.

The brief, filed Monday in D.C. Circuit Court, argues that the agency did not follow its own rules when it used outside sources to arrive at its findings and improperly denied a petition for reconsideration of its ruling.

The filing comes on the heels of a report from the EPA’s inspector general that said the agency failed to follow federal rules in its process for using climate change data to arrive at its conclusions.

Among a number of shortcomings, the report concluded that rather than performing its own research, the EPA relied on work done by others and did not determine whether the data met its own quality guidelines before distributing it.

“As the EPA Inspector General found, the EPA has no procedures with respect to reliance on third parties,” the brief states. “Therefore, when the agency uncritically accepted the conclusions of others without established standards for doing so, it necessarily engaged in arbitrary and capricious rulemaking.”

In a statement, Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said the office made recommendations it thought would strengthen EPA’s control over data quality processes.

EPA disagreed with our conclusions and did not agree to take any corrective actions” in response, he said.

The agency noted that the report does not question the science used or the conclusions reached — that greenhouse gases pose a threat to the health and welfare of Americans.

“While EPA will consider the specific recommendations, we disagree strongly with the Inspector General’s findings and followed all the appropriate guidance in preparing this finding,” the agency said.

Mr. Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic, first petitioned the agency in February 2010 to convene and reconsider its conclusion and filed a lawsuit in federal court in the wake of the “Climategate” controversy, in which researchers from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were accused of manipulating climate data after emails among them were hacked and the contents revealed. Investigations have cleared scientists of wrongdoing.

“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,” Mr. Cuccinelli said earlier this month. “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.”

Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientific Integrity Program, said Mr. Cuccinelli was grasping at straws.

“What is it with this attorney general and science? When the science isn’t on his side, he attempts to poke holes in the process and attack the scientists who do the research,” she said. “The inspector general’s report did not question the agency’s conclusion that climate change is a threat to human health and welfare, nor did it question the agency’s ability to deal with global warming emissions.”