Pruitt Questions EPA Finding That Climate Change Is Health Risk

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  • Barton quizzes EPA chief over determination carbon a pollutant
  • EPA has spent months prepping for a 2018 climate debate

Fighting Climate Change, Without the U.S.

The Obama administration rushed an analysis that found climate change is a risk to human health and welfare, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said, offering a justification that he could use to reverse that determination.

The key concern, Pruitt told a congressional panel, was that the EPA in 2009 relied on scientific reports written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s authoritative network of climate scientists. Pruitt called it a “unique situation” in which a regulatory procedure relied on outsiders’ scientific work.

"There was a breach of process that occurred in 2009 that many believe was not handled the proper way," Pruitt told a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday. "That process in 2009 was short-shrifted.”

The IPCC, composed of government and university scientists from the U.S. and around the world, has produced five comprehensive reports since 1990 summarizing thousands of peer-reviewed research papers. The most recent synthesis, published in 2014, concluded that “human influence on the climate system is clear,” causing “widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”

Pruitt has questioned that link between emissions from factories, power plants and vehicles and global warming, saying the connection isn’t as clear as scientists have made it.

Read More: How Trump White House Wound Up Releasing Dire Climate Report

His agency has been preparing to launch its own review of climate science in a forum borrowed from military strategy, in which a “red team” challenges conventional thinking and a “blue team” defends it. That will happen next year, he said.

Uprooting the so-called “endangerment finding” that enabled Obama-era climate regulations is no small task. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling essentially required the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions if it found them to be a risk to health and welfare, and the scientific findings, including one issued by the U.S. government last month, have become more clear of the link between greenhouse gases and a changing climate.

While Pruitt has already moved to dismantle President Barack Obama’s climate regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan, the EPA has so far declined to say if it would also move to repeal the underlying endangerment finding. Doing that would be a drain on agency resources and land it in court. Business groups have signaled they prefer a different course.

President Donald Trump in March issued an executive order directing Pruitt to pull back the Clean Power Plan. The EPA in October formally began the reversal process. Pruitt signaled in his exchange with Texas Republican Joe Barton that he expects his agency to replace the Obama-era measure with a new regulation, one that has yet to be articulated.

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