Why I Blew the Whistle at EPA

Published September 26, 2014

[Editor’s note: Alan Carlin delivered these remarks when accepting the Climate Change Whistleblower Award at the Heartland Institute’s Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, July 8 in Las Vegas.]

I greatly appreciate receiving this award and the efforts of the many people involved at many levels in making it possible. I consider it a great honor, and thank you for it. I wrote my negative comments on the Endangerment Finding support document because I believed EPA was using bad science and EPA’s proposed Endangerment Finding would be easier to stop at that stage than later. It is very encouraging to find others agree with my decision to do so, which EPA clearly did not.

Muzzled for Comments

My offending comments to EPA led to my being immediately muzzled at the same time that Obama was spinning his transparency and scientific integrity line. The Endangerment Finding was issued later that year, without any of my suggested changes in the support document, of course. This finding is the legally definitive EPA statement on climate science. It has been tested in the courts and is legally no longer an issue; this is what I hoped to avoid by my challenge to the support document.

For the last few years I have been working on a book-length manuscript describing everything touched on here and much more, including my skeptic efforts, how the environmental movement lost its way since my days as a Sierra Club activist and leader, and the main legal, journalistic, governmental, scientific, environmental, and economic aspects of the climate issue. This manuscript is now complete and up-to-date. If any of you know a good way to get it published so that it will be read, please let me know, as I think it has some vital messages for everyone as we approach the showdown over the proposed EPA regulations.

Endangerment Finding’s Impact

The Endangerment Finding led directly to EPA’s proposed regulations for reducing CO2 emissions from power plants earlier this year. The new EPA proposed regulations are even worse than I expected in 2009, perhaps because the blueprint for them was actually written by an environmental organization. First of all, they are illegal, as per any reasonable reading of Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. They impose many aspects of the Waxman-Markey bill despite Congress’ rejection of it, and try to force red states to adopt the usual market-distorting preferences for power generation promoted by radical environmentalists. The regulations will have major adverse effects on the U.S. economy, all for no or more likely negative benefits, and will result in higher costs for electric ratepayers, with particularly adverse effects on lower income groups. They will also lead to potentially extremely costly electric grid instability and load shedding when electric power is most needed. EPA is effectively trying to rewrite the Clean Air Act without consulting Congress or observing the law or the Constitution.

EPA’s ‘Aggressive Unilateralism’

House Speaker John Boehner calls Obama’s behavior in this and other areas “aggressive unilateralism.” I call it dictatorial. Even if EPA’s science were correct, which it is not, the regulations should be rejected on the basis of EPA’s illegal power grab. I believe that skeptics need to place greater emphasis on this aspect of the situation. The powers of the presidency have been an issue since the founding of the Republic and are much more readily understood than climate science will ever be. What started out as a scientific issue concerning a proposed Endangerment Finding has now escalated into a major legal and even constitutional issue concerning presidential powers. The president roams the country calling us “flat-earthers” and science-deniers. Perhaps it is time to characterize his behavior as illegal and even dictatorial.

Time to Change Course

Currently the public favors the EPA regulations by 67 to 29 percent, so there appear to be many possible recipients for better information if we are to succeed in avoiding the future that radical environmentalists want to impose on our country through unjustified federal intervention in still another vital sector of the economy. If their efforts should succeed, we can reasonably look forward to much higher levels of mandated CO2 reductions in this sector and probably many others as well. It is better to stop this mission creep now before it metastasizes even further.

We must not fail in our endeavors for the sake of the country’s economic and environmental future and the preservation of the rule of law. These new power plant regulations will happen unless a way is found to stop them. There are only three possible ways to do this: A president who will withdraw them, Republican control of both houses of Congress, or rejection by the courts. Obama will not willingly withdraw the regulations before he leaves office in 2017. Rejection by the courts has not proved a dependable strategy to date, but the proposals are becoming increasingly outrageous legally. Congress is the only somewhat dependable avenue in the near term, and there is an election in 2014. A number of environmental groups are already very hard at work trying to influence this election so as to promote their proposed EPA regulations. They have already even sent me two thinly disguised appeals, probably because I live in a state with a Democratic senator up for reelection.

Alan Carlin ([email protected]) is an economist and former chapter chairman of the Sierra Club who dedicated 40 years of his life to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.