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US Chamber of Commerce Challenges EPA on GHG Emissions Regulation

February 14, 2010

The peak US industry body, the US Chamber of Commerce, on Friday filed a petition indicating it will challenge the US EPA’s decision to trigger Clean Air Act legislation, based on the endangerment finding related to greenhouse gas emissions.  The Chamber argues their case on the basis of flawed procedure by the EPA.  They have also opposed all efforts at emissions trading legislation.  They are in the company of the most reactive of businesses and associations in this regard. 

There is uncertainty in the United States concerning the means by which climate change will be addressed.  In a previous post, we commented on the possibilities for legislative action on greenhouse gas emissions. 

One of the drivers that may motivate law-makers to pass legislation is the background risk that, should no legislation be forthcoming, the EPA will regulate emissions.  This  is made possible following the endangerment finding, signed by the EPA administrator on December 7, 2009

In response, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others, will formally oppose the EPA finding.  This has been reported on in Post Carbon, the Washington Post’s climate change blog

The US Chamber of Commerce position is set out in the Chamber Post, the Chamber’s blog

The U.S. Chamber strongly supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, but we believe there’s a right way and a wrong way to achieve that goal. 

The wrong way is through the EPA’s endangerment finding, which triggers Clean Air Act regulation.  Because of the huge potential impact on jobs and local economies, this is an issue that requires careful analysis of all available data and options.  Unfortunately, the agency failed to do that and instead overreached.  The result is a flawed administrative finding that will lead to other poorly conceived regulations further downstream.  

The right way is through bipartisan legislation that promotes new technologies, emphasizes efficiency, ensures affordable energy for families and businesses, and defends American jobs while returning our economy to prosperity.  We also need a comprehensive international agreement that includes all CO2 emitting economies, which the Chamber has been actively working toward. 

Today the Chamber is filing a formal petition indicating it will challenge EPA’s decision to trigger Clean Air Act regulation, based on lapses in EPA’s process in making that decision.  

The Chamber’s legal challenge will focus specifically on the inadequacies of the process that EPA followed in triggering Clean Air Act regulation, and not on scientific issues related to climate change or endangerment. Further details about our challenge will be forthcoming in the coming weeks when our statement of issues is filed. 

We continue to call for Congress to address climate change policy through the legislative process, rather than having EPA misapply environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act or Endangered Species Act that were not created to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Competitive Enterprise Institute communication to the EPA is aimed more at derailing the finding due to fundamental opposition to the scientific basis of climate change science.  It states that the EPA finding was ‘not based on the best science available’.  

In particular, the Institute contends that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, on of the assessments upon which the finding was based (the others being the NRC and USGRCP, is flawed for the following reasons: 

1) they omitted critical temperature data; 2) they were inconsistent with principles of science and violated EPA’s Information Quality Guidelines; 3) they lacked tested theory; 4) they were based on invalid methodology; and 5) they were based upon invalid models that fail basic tests and had no predictive power. 

The position of the Institute relies partially on recent deficiencies in certain aspects of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which have featured substantially in the press in recent months, and on suggestions that particular data stations or sets are deficient.  

One of the allegations is related to the claim that Michael Mann at PSU was deceitful in his research (his famous ‘hockey stick’ graph is a key piece of climate change evidence – his research can be accessed here).  The findings of Penn State inquiry into research misconduct has recently cleared Prof Mann on 3 of 4 counts, while the fourth is still under analysis, as follows (excerpts): 

Finding 1: 

There exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data 

Finding 2: 

there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with intent to delete, conceal, or otherwise destroy emails, information, and/or data related to AR4 

Finding 3: 

there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to him in his capacity as an academic scholar 

Finding 4: 

the enquiry committee could not make a definitive finding whether there exists any evidence to substantiate that Dr. Mann did engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities. 

It is unfortunate for the image of the US Chamber of Commerce that their efforts to contest the finding is inevitably associated with those of bedfellows such as the CEI – not that their PR on climate change could get much worse, for which it has not had a great run of late.  In October, the Yes Men pulled off a dramatic hoax of a US Chamber of Commerce press conference, as reported in the Huffington Post.  The fake press conference purported to set out a new Chamber position of no longer opposing climate legislation.  Companies including Apple, Exelon, and Nike, have either left the Chamber, or down-graded their status as a result of the Chamber’s climate policy position and activities. 

Rather than disputing the science, the position of the US Chamber of Commerce is apparently based on their opposition to the process by which the EPA reached their conclusions.  At base, their opposition would seem to be based on the economic impact of EPA legislation in this space.  As such, you would expect the Chamber to take a positive view of an efficient, market-based mechanism such as an emissions trading scheme. 

Their position on emissions trading is stated as follows, in a testimony from July 2009

The Chamber does not categorically support or oppose approaches such as cap and trade or carbon tax, but rather measures all climate legislation on a bill-by-bill basis against five core principles. Any legislation or regulation introduced must (1) preserve American jobs and competitiveness of U.S. industry; (2) provide an international solution that includes developing nations; (3) promote accelerated development and deployment of greenhouse gas reduction technology; (4) reduce barriers to the development of climate-friendly energy sources; and (5) promote energy conservation and efficiency. 

The opposition of the Chamber to EPA regulation of emissions is valid, and has support from legislators.  EPA regulation would likely involve high transaction costs, be too prescriptive, constrain opportunities for innovation, and be inefficient. 

A better way to tackle the issue is through emissions-reducing legislation with efficiency and innovation at its core.  

 However, the Chamber opposed the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.  It also opposes HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Waxman-Markey).  

In the absence of a more progressive position on emissions-limiting legislation, the Chamber of Commerce justification of its opposition to the procedural issues related to EPA regulation looks like a fig leaf, covering a die-hard, regressive, opposition to all meaningful federal action on climate change.  The implicit association of the affinity of the positions of the CEI and Chamber seems justified. 






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