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EPA's own research expert 'shut up' on climate change

Posted By Chelsea Schilling On 06/24/2009 @ 11:05 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Environmental Protection Agency officials have silenced one of their own senior researchers after the 38-year employee issued an internal critique of the EPA’s climate change position.

Alan Carlin, senior operations research analyst at the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics, or NCEE, submitted his research on the agency’s greenhouse gases endangerment findings and offered a fundamental critique on the EPA’s approach to combating CO2 emissions. But officials refused to share his conclusion in an open internal discussion, claiming his research would have “a very negative impact on our office.”

His study was barred from circulation within the EPA and was never disclosed to the public for political reasons, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or CEI, a group that has accessed four internal e-mails on the subject.

CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman told WND, “His boss basically told him, ‘No, I’m not going to send your study further up. It’s going to stay within this bureau.’”

A March 12 e-mail to Carlin warned him not to have “any direct communication with anyone outside NCEE on endangerment.”

Carlin, a researcher who earned his doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in physics from California Institute of Technology, informed officials that two-thirds of his references were from peer-reviewed publications and defended his inclusion of new research on the topic.

“It is also my view that the critical attribute of good science is its correspondence to observable data rather than where it appears in the technical literature,” he wrote. “I believe my comments are valid, significant and contain references to significant new research … They are significant because they present information critical to justification (or lack thereof) for the proposed [greenhouse gas] endangerment finding.”

After nearly one week of discussion, NCEE Director Al McGartland informed Carlin on March 17 that he would not include the research in the internal EPA discussion.

“Alan, I decided not to forward your comments,” he wrote. “… 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.”

In yet another e-mail sent only minutes following the previous one, McGartland wrote, “With the endangerment findings nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don’t want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate.”

CEI charges that suppression of Carlin’s study denied public access to important agency information, as court rulings have indicated that both “the evidence relied upon [by the agency] and the evidence discarded” must be included in the rulemaking record.

“They could come up with reasons to reject it, as I’m sure they’re going to come up with reasons to reject the scientific objections that are coming in now from outside parties in the general public and from skeptical scientists,” Kazman told WND. “But I’d say the real issue here is that this critique is coming from a career EPA insider, so it can’t be dismissed as the work of someone in the pay of the coal-burning fossil-fuel industry. The fact that someone within the EPA was taking this approach is something that would be naturally embarrassing to the agency.”

CEI also said the incident violated the EPA’s commitment to transparency and scientific honesty.

Prior to taking office, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declared, “As Administrator, I will ensure EPA’s efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency.”

Likewise, CEI reminds the EPA of President Obama’s April 27 speech to the National Academy of Sciences in which he stated, “[U]nder my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over.”

In a memo to the EPA, Kazman wrote, “Because of ideology, however, it was this back seat to which Mr. Carlin’s study was relegated; more precisely, it was booted out of the car entirely.”

“The irony of the president and Administrator Jackson talking about EPA’s new transparency and commitment to scientific integrity, that’s really incredible,” Kazman said.

CEI is asking the agency to make Carlin’s study public, extend or reopen the comment period to allow public response to his research and publicly declare that there will be no reprisals against Carlin for his research.

Kazman said the issue is “coming to a head” because the EPA’s internal commentary period just closed, and the 1,200-page Waxman-Markey climate bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions is scheduled to come to a vote Friday on the House floor.

He believes Carlin’s study could have implications on how lawmakers feel about the allegedly solid research behind the climate bill – especially if objecting analysts within the agency are being silenced.

“Any right-minded administrator would have said, ‘Fine, put it in and we’ll give our reasons for why we reject his contentions,” Kazman said. “But instead, they shut the guy up.”



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