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Climate doubters gather, call for killing EPA's finding that carbon dioxide endangers public health

Originally published by E&E News

The most important message to send the Trump administration and Capitol Hill right now: The 2009 finding that carbon dioxide endangers public health "must go."

Advisers to the Trump administration's transition team at U.S. EPA and other long-established climate contrarians repeated that mantra for the past 36 hours at the Heartland Institute's 12th annual International Conference on Climate Change.

"You need to contact your members of Congress, and you need to make noise and — particularly the scientists here — that the endangerment finding needs to be reopened," said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and former head of President Trump's EPA transition team.

"President Trump said that he would do it," Ebell told the crowd, after listing about a dozen Trump campaign promises related to energy. Ebell also explained some of the hurdles he believes are holding Trump back, including a shortage of staff in his personnel office.

We need to make it possible to go in and litigate every bit of science — I don't care how long it takes.

Steve Milloy
With Trump expected to take action next week on an executive order that will begin the process of unwinding parts of the Obama administration's climate agenda, the energy industry, environmental community and conservative activists are gearing up for legal and legislative action.

"We need to make it possible to go in and litigate every bit of science — I don't care how long it takes," said Steve Milloy, an attorney and longtime legal foe of EPA, who participated in the Trump transition (Greenwire, Feb. 24).

Milloy urged the "cowards" in Congress to get busy working to "overrule the terrible decision" made in Massachusetts v. EPA, one of three Supreme Court decisions that now have affirmed EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's conclusion in a widely panned interview with CNBC that carbon dioxide is not the main driver behind climate change encouraged some GOP lawmakers who want the agency to revisit the finding (E&E News PM, March 10).

Those include Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), head of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment; Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.); and, most recently, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who served as an energy adviser to Trump during last year's campaign.

House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) may also join the list of gavel-wielding members of Congress keen on examining the endangerment finding.

Smith was asked yesterday during the conference whether he would hold a hearing on the topic.

"Probably, but it hasn't been set yet. ... We can add that to our list. It will be about 14 or 15 on the ideas that we have coming up that we think are good ones," Smith said.

Long-established climate contrarian Pat Michaels of the Cato Institute rallied the like-minded audience yesterday around vacating the finding, alleging major flaws in the models that support the finding authored by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

"When the president eviscerates the Clean Power Plan ... it has to go," Michaels said, warning that otherwise every "tentacle" of the "green blob" would be petitioning the courts for a stay of the White House's expected executive action.

"There are people I have heard that are trying to finesse their way around it. There is no way to finesse around a monster, so let's go forward," Michaels said in his keynote address to the two-day conference.

Pressure from lawyers

Ebell speculated that lawyers from the right-of-center Federalist Society, who are said to have affected Trump's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy, are pressuring the administration against reopening the endangerment finding.

Ebell speculated those lawyers are advising: "It's too much work, and you don't really need to do it."

Environmental attorneys are girding for defense of President Obama's initiatives, with a multipronged strategy in the works (E&E News PM, March 7).

"It was certainly a revealing moment when Scott Pruitt confessed or slipped up and said what he really thought on CNBC," said David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, on a panel earlier this week previewing climate action under Trump.

"I know that certain gadflies from think tanks and [others] have been urging that EPA during his tenure revisit the endangerment determination," Doniger said, but a "mountain of evidence, thousands of peer-reviewed studies stretching back over now several decades," and courts support it, he said.

Whether EPA chooses the administrative route or Congress revisits the Clean Air Act amendments, Doniger predicted the chances of overturning the finding are "nil."

"That is a doomed effort, but that isn't to say it won't be attempted," he said.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2017. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net