29 June 2009

Senator Inhofe Takes What is Given

Updated: 30 June 12:50PM, See bottom

In the comments DeepClimate points us to his blog (thanks DC) where he discusses a Fox News article reporting how Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has ordered an investigation into EPA's handling of the Alan Carlin situation:
A top Republican senator has ordered an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency's alleged suppression of a report that questioned the science behind global warming.

The 98-page report, co-authored by EPA analyst Alan Carlin, pushed back on the prospect of regulating gases like carbon dioxide as a way to reduce global warming. Carlin's report argued that the information the EPA was using was out of date, and that even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased, global temperatures have declined.

"He came out with the truth. They don't want the truth at the EPA," Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla, a global warming skeptic, told FOX News, saying he's ordered an investigation. "We're going to expose it."
Deep Climate, along with Gavin Schmidt and a few of our commenters, seem to think that some combination of the following facts would justify deviating from standard regulatory procedures in a federal agency (and DeepClimate even suggests that Carlin should have been fired long ago by EPA):

1. Alan Carlin is an economist.
2. James Inhofe (R-OK) is reviled among those wanting action on climate change.
3. Carlin's submission is full of nonsense and cribbed marterial from websites written by people with a connection to the fossil fuel industry.
4. FoxNews reported on Inhofe's investigation.

For purposes of discussion, lets posit that all of 1 through 4 are true. Unfortunately for DeepClimate and Gavin Schmidt, they are all irrelevant because in U.S. federal agencies there is no "bogus" clause, no "denier" clause, no "Republican" clause that they can invoke to make arguments they don't like simply go away. Senator Inhofe of course knows this and will exploit the Carlin situation as much as he can, and in the process will give it far, far more attention than it would have received had EPA officials simply decided not to give Carlin's submission special treatment. In fact, I'd argue that it would have never been an issue without the special treatment. Now it can be used to fire up Inhofe's base and keep various dubious arguments in play.

When will folks learn that climate change, as important as it is, does not mean that basic democratic principles and procedures arbitraily get thrown out the door? And from a more crassly political perspective, when will they there is nothing to be gained by "protecting" a process from unwelcome information (especially when that process requires full disclosure), and much to be lost from efforts to defend the indefensible, even if you believe in the righteousness of your cause.

I am sure that from this episode some will blame Senator Inhofe for his efforts to sow opposition to action on climate change, which of course he is doing, but they should also recognize that his job is made a lot easier by his political opponents who served up Carlin on a silver platter.

Update 30 June 12:50

In the comments Jim Bouldin asks about standard regulatory procedures. The image below is from a 1981 book on rulemaking titled "A Blueprint for Regulatory Reform" by P. McGuigan. The relevant court case cited is Ethyl Corp. v. EPA, 541 F.2d 1, 36 (D.C. Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 426 U.S. 941.