Interview: Alan Carlin Explains How Politics Infiltrated EPA

Published September 19, 2014

Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor interviewed Alan Carlin after Carlin’s talk at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Carlin provided more insight into some of the main points in his ICCC talk.

Taylor: What were your main arguments against EPA’s Endangerment Finding, as presented in your comments?

Carlin: I made three main points in my comments to EPA on the draft Technical Support Document (TSD), the technical basis for EPA’s Endangerment Finding. These were: the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) hypothesis is invalid from a scientific viewpoint because it fails a number of critical comparisons with available observable data, the draft TSD was seriously dated and the updates made to an abortive 2007 version of the draft TSD used to prepare it were inadequate, and EPA should conduct an independent analysis of the science of global warming rather than adopting the conclusions of outside groups such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and U.S. Government reports based on IPCC’s reports. My full comments can be found at

Taylor: You say EPA used bad science in its Endangerment finding. Do you believe EPA simply but honestly drew the wrong conclusions, or do you believe EPA had ulterior motives?

Carlin: In my view, the arrival of the Obama administration in 2009 resulted in political decisions in the White House on climate science being imposed on EPA rather than EPA relying on its own independent analysis as in most previous decisions. The new EPA political appointees involved in climate policy were apparently screened on the basis of their views on climate policy. EPA career employees generally believed any attempt to oppose CAGW would very likely result in unfavorable personnel or organizational changes by the new EPA administration. Most career employees were primarily interested in protecting their jobs and bureaucratic roles by accepting or at least not opposing the politically determined science imposed by the White House.

Taylor: Based on your experience in EPA, what percent of EPA staffers are open-minded and committed to honest science, and what percent are driven by ideology or environmental extremism?

Carlin: All the new Obama political appointees supported the EPA’s proposed Endangerment Finding and the TSD supporting the science on which it was based. A few of the more recent career hires clearly believed the radical environmentalist ideology and strongly supported the CAGW-based finding, and the rest either had no opinion or kept quiet about any concerns they might have had.

Taylor: You used to be very active with the Sierra Club. What motivated you to do this, and why did you subsequently stop being active with the group?

Carlin: In the 1960s and early 1970s, when I was active in the Sierra Club as an environmental activist and elected Chapter Chairman, the Club supported improving the environment and appeared to be open to using both good science and economics in support of its objectives. With a colleague, I contributed to the Club’s campaign to prevent the construction of two dams in the Grand Canyon by preparing economic analyses, for example. I dropped out of any active involvement when I accepted a senior position at EPA after it was formed in 1970. EPA at that time discouraged active involvement in organizations taking an activist role concerning what it regulates.

Taylor: You mentioned in your ICCC-9 speech that an environmental activist group—the Natural Resources Defense Council—wrote the blueprint for EPA’s recently proposed power plant carbon dioxide restrictions. Why should it bother people that EPA works so closely with environmental activist groups?

Carlin: I believe EPA’s job is to reduce harmful pollution where this reflects good science, economics, and law, and to negotiate the best possible compromises between the interest groups involved to achieve this. Responding only to the regulated community or only to the environmental activists does not result in such compromises. Following a script written by an environmental organization, as EPA is apparently now doing with respect to power plants, is thus not a useful approach since it prevents EPA from making a useful contribution of its own since it is just responding to what one side wants.

Taylor: Your ICCC-9 presentation mentioned a book you have written on all this. What is the title, and when will it be available?

Carlin: The book is called Environmentalism Gone Mad: How a Former Sierra Club Activist and Senior EPA Analyst Found a Radical Green Energy Fantasy. Besides a much more detailed discussion of all the issues raised by your questions, the book explores the ideological inconsistencies, practical problems, and likely outcomes resulting from the rise of radical energy environmentalism from scientific, economic, governmental, journalistic, and legal viewpoints. These problems have arisen because the environmental movement has been hijacked by left-wing radicals who are advocating policies that impair the Western world’s economic future for no or even negative environmental gains and promoting legally questionable government actions whose purpose government cannot achieve in the way proposed. The book explores why their campaign may lead to regulatory strangulation of the economy through control of energy generation and use, and threatens the rule of law. It is the threat to the rule of law that is the real danger, not the alleged adverse effects of increasing CO2 levels. The book is expected to be published later this year. Information on it will be available on my website at as publication approaches.