There were some interesting answers at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee climate change “mega-hearing” yesterday, particularly regarding the EPA’s estimation of its own regulatory efficacy and the future of coal.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) questioned McCarthy on the EPA’s indicators of climate change. The agency maintains a list of 26 such indicators on its website—such as greenhouse gas emissions, ocean heat, and sea level—to suggest specific areas where the administration believes there is an empirical impact from climate change. But when Pompeo pressed McCarthy, asking whether the EPA has been able to see any demonstrable positive effects from their regulations on these indicators, she revealed that the administration considers the indicators merely as tools for international “leadership and discussion,” not measurement.
Pompeo pressed further, asking if the EPA was able to observe any causal relationship between their promulgated regulations and their indicators, particularly heat-related deaths, to which McCarthy admitted that “EPA in and of itself can’t affect results of climate change.” This is in spite of the $20 billion, according to the GAO, which goes to various U.S. agencies, including the EPA, for climate change-related expenditures. Pompeo seemed confounded: “So you’re putting regulations in place for the purpose of leadership, but not to impact the indicators that you, the EPA, say are the measures of climate change?”
It’s hard to blame him for seeming flummoxed. Much discussion at the hearing made mention of responses from foreign nations–particularly Australia and its recent conservative swing, partly attributable to backlash against carbon taxes—which are rejecting measures put forth by climate change proponents. It doesn’t seem like the taxpayer has gotten much bang for his buck if these are the sort of results which U.S. “leadership” on climate change has reaped.
Administrator McCarthy protested, claiming that the indicators are not specific enough to reveal the EPA’s regulatory impact on climate change because the agency has a very “broad” goal. But Pompeo counter-protested, arguing that the indicators are quite specific and that McCarthy, who lauded the elimination of a large tonnage of greenhouse gasses in 2010, cannot draw any connection between her rules and any indicators:
Is anything you’re doing doing any good as measured by the indicators that you provided? You just have no capacity to identify whether the actions that the EPA has undertaken has any impact on those indicators? This is about science—cause and effect—is there any causal relationship between the regulations you’ve promulgated and the 26 indicators of climate change you have on your website? […]The indicators are quantifiable—now what you’re telling me is you can’t link up your actions at EPA to any benefits associable to those quantifiable indicators?
McCarthy replied that the organization would hopefully put out a packet to address this issue.
The image of the EPA that emerged from this exchange was an organization uncertain of its ability to tackle its pet issue, desperately hoping that it could “prompt and leverage international discussion.”
When asked about fracking, McCarthy said that it was a complicated question, but conceded that the new technology has been a “wonderful thing” for air quality. When questioned on coal, McCarthy stated that new rules would “provide certainty for new coal” and that “coal will continue to represent a significant portion of energy supply for decades to come.”
Some other developments: When questioned about unemployment resulting from mine and power plant closures, McCarthy said that the EPA had to be sensitive to economic consequences, but that the agency had no specific plan for people who lose jobs. Secretary Moniz revealed that there exists a “Green-Cabinet,” comprised of “principals from the agencies who have special responsibility in the climate action plan” who discuss coordination and meet periodically with the White House. Moniz also said that there would be new appliance rules being released, specifically for electric motors, but that his agency would try to pursue a public/private partnership in their implementation.
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