Fahrenheit 451 Redux at the EPA | Citizens Against Government Waste

Fahrenheit 451 Redux at the EPA

The WasteWatcher

In legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, the government suppressed independent thought and analysis for the good of the people.  It was better to keep the populace ignorant of differing opinions than to challenge the status quo in the society described in that book.

A little of Fahrenheit 451 seems to have seeped into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Some EPA officials have modeled their behavior after Bradbury’s firemen, attempting to suppress, or “burn,” a March 2009 internal EPA report that challenged the rationale for the agency’s campaign to regulate carbon dioxide, or CO2, as a harmful pollutant under the Clean Air Act. 

Standard operating procedure for amending the Clean Air Act in order to add carbon dioxide as a pollutant dictated that EPA would have to open up a public rulemaking record, which includes all the relevant EPA reports, studies and documents, and hold a comment period.  In March 2009, it was discovered by the intrepid folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) that a key document had been omitted from the record.  An office within EPA, the National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE), had tendered a number of comments about the underlying science justifying the proposed rule.  Email traffic obtained by CEI clearly indicates that several senior EPA officials attempted to bury these challenges and prohibit the public from reading them because the report would undermine their drive toward regulation.

From the first page of the executive summary of the report, the author questions why EPA officials had accepted wholesale and were basing their rulemaking on the data and conclusions contained in the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) materials without an independent review by EPA’s scientists.  The author mentions that even though his department has had scant time to analyze the rulemaking data, they had already identified glaring problems, including the fact that the IPCC report was at least three years out of date, the environmental facts on the ground had changed significantly, and that more recent peer-reviewed studies had also begun to question the IPCC’s assumptions and conclusions. 

Zealous devotees of the anthropomorphic climate change hypothesis routinely assault contrarians who question the scientific basis for their drive to regulate greenhouse gases.  Global warming gadfly and chief standard-bearer Al Gore dismissed the skeptics in a March 30, 2008 interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, saying “They’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the earth is flat.  That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off.”  However, the author of the beleaguered internal EPA study, Alan Carlin, is a 35-year veteran of the EPA with a degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology, certainly well-qualified to comment on research studies.

During his campaign, President Obama insisted he would support transparency in his government.  Specifically, in Obama’s own campaign document he promised not to “use climate change research data for political objectives.”  

Yet, in the case of this EPA study, his administration appears to be engaged in the sort of heavy-handed censorship that inspired Ray Bradbury to write Fahrenheit 451.  As part of its own submission during the comment period, CEI has submitted the quashed report and the e-mail correspondence to try to ensure that it becomes part of the public record.  But the whole episode has served as a flashpoint over the politicization of science in the Obama administration and turned up the heat on his commitment to transparency and accountability. 

Roger Morse