Climate change committee demands papers after agency delays action on greenhouse gases
A key US congressional committee has slapped the Environmental Protection Agency with a subpoena for documents pertaining to global warming. In the 2 April order, the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change directs the agency to provide drafts of its documents related to the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.
Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs the committee, threatened to ’enforce the subpoena’ if EPA does not turn the documents over within 10 days.
The subpoena comes one year after the US Supreme Court’s decision on the global warming case Massachusetts vs EPA, which ordered EPA to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles is dangerous to humans - and regulate the emissions if CO2 was judged to be a threat to health.
President Bush directed EPA and other agencies to prepare a response to the case in May 2007, and Stephen Johnson, the EPA’s administrator, agreed to publish his findings and regulatory proposal by the end of 2007. However, Johnson has yet to provide the information.
’I had expected to resolve this dispute with the administrator without having to resort to this action, but I’m disappointed to report that EPA has made no effort to accommodate the committee’s request and has done nothing but repeated excuses that are empty of legal meaning,’ Markey stated during the subpoena proceeding. The action represents the first time he has issued a subpoena in 32 years of congressional service.
’EPA has placed us in that position and so we must go forward,’ the congressman said. ’The select committee has both the right and the responsibility to obtain these documents so that we can understand exactly how EPA planned on responding to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.’
EPA says it has not provided the documents - and may never do so - because some of them concern confidential internal processes and deliberations.
’These documents are internal process stuff ... the staff want to be able to give their candid opinions in a way that is protected,’ EPA spokeman Jonathan Shradar told Chemistry World. He notes that the Supreme Court tasked EPA with determining whether greenhouses gases and carbon emissions from cars are dangerous, but did not set a timeframe for regulation or other action. ’There is no deadline,’ he added.
However, Markey calls EPA’s reasoning flimsy. ’It simply is no answer to say that the documents are ’pre-decisional’ - that provides no lawful basis for a refusal to supply documents relevant to a lawful congressional inquiry,’ he stated at the subpoena proceeding.
Meanwhile, the EPA is also being sued by a coalition of 18 states, two cities and 11 environmental groups who want to force the agency to comply with the Supreme Court ruling as quickly as possible. If succesful, the legal proceedings, begun on 2 April, would require the EPA to issue its findings and proposals on CO2 within 60 days.
’The EPA’s failure to act in the face of these incontestable dangers is a shameful dereliction of duty,’ said Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general.
Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Day USA
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