If President Trump wants to put an end to the hoax and economic disaster that is man-made catastrophic global warming hysteria, there’s one order that is essential to issue: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must reopen its “endangerment finding” for greenhouse gases.
The Obama EPA issued the endangerment finding in December 2009 as a threshold determination to the agency commencing the regulation of greenhouse gases as “air pollutants.” In the endangerment finding, the EPA determined that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases threaten the public welfare. This appalling finding then allowed the EPA to proceed with its Clean Power Plan, the regulation of carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants.
The endangerment finding was born in corruption and has aged worse.
Though Congress considered but refused to authorize EPA regulation of greenhouse gases as part of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, wily environmental activists were able to wrangle the less-than-competent Bush EPA into disastrous litigation. The resultant 2007 Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, allowed (not ordered) the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases in clear contravention of congressional intent.
While the Bush EPA never got around to finding that greenhouse gases threatened the public welfare, the Obama administration wasted no time in doing so. The Obama EPA rushed to issue its politically timed endangerment finding to prop up the flailing 2009 United Nations climate meeting in Copenhagen.
There is reason to believe, based on EPA staff emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that the Obama EPA may have predetermined the outcome of the endangerment finding before the rulemaking process commenced. These emails show a disturbing history of Obama EPA staff working covertly with green activist groups to shape major regulatory efforts like the Clean Power Plan.
So it is quite conceivable, if not likely, that similar collusion occurred with the endangerment finding. This collusion could easily be investigated by the Trump administration, providing the Obama EPA staff didn’t destroy federal records on its way out the door.
The endangerment finding was issued in the wake of the revelations from the November 2009 Climategate scandal, which revealed, among other things, efforts by parts of the climate science community to manipulate scientific data and study results, to cover up such manipulation and to silence critics. Although the EPA’s endangerment finding (as well as the political climate amid which the Massachusetts v. EPA decision was issued) relied in great part on the controversial Climategate data and studies, the agency refused to reopen the public comment period for the endangerment finding to explore the ramifications and implications of Climategate.
The endangerment finding is also scientifically suspect. It ignored the then-ongoing global warming pause that we may possibly still be experiencing. According to NASA satellite data, the most reliable temperature data we have, 2016 was not warmer than 1998, despite there being 10 percent more carbon dioxide and 4.5 percent more methane (which is reputed to have 20 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. We’ve also experienced a hurricane drought, fewer tornadoes and declines in other extreme weather events and disasters despite the aforementioned significant increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.
In addition to the procedural rulemaking problems associated with the Obama EPA endangerment finding, there are climatic factual realities and new science that also beg to be reconsidered — including the overlooked benefits of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Not only is it necessary for life as plant food, more of it promotes more plant growth and more food for a growing world population.
But didn’t a federal court come down on the EPA’s side on the endangerment finding? Yes, but only in the sense that the agency technically and superficially complied with the law — that is, there was a rulemaking, and the EPA accepted public comment and provided an explanation for its ultimate decision. There was no actual review of climate science or Climategate, much less agency collusion with activists.
If all that is not enough, Mr. Trump should realize that even if he were to repeal the Obama Clean Power Plan but leave the endangerment finding behind, the green activist groups and their state allies will take him to court and force his EPA to issue his own Trump power plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That will not help to fulfill any campaign pledges about unleashing the American energy industry.
There should be no political worries in the Trump administration about opening up the endangerment finding. Mr. Trump campaigned on the job-killing climate issue and the reality that the EPA is an out-of-control and overreaching regulatory agency. He was, in fact, elected to take on the rogue EPA, especially with respect to Obama administration abuses.
Finally, none of this is to prejudge the outcome of a Trump administration review of the endangerment finding. The process should be open and transparent — for the first time providing a forum for climate skeptics and alarmists to debate in public. Bring your best science and leave the invective and ad hominem attacks at home. May the most persuasive side win. But by all means, let’s finally have this vital debate.
• Steve Milloy is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA” (Bench Press, 2016) and a senior legal fellow with the Energy and Environment Legal Institute.