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EPA Pushes Back Against Report Alleging Agency Cut Corners On Climate Finding

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Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) | Thinkstock

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday pushed back against an inspector general report alleging the White House cut corners in concluding that greenhouse gasses pose a threat to human health, a finding that helped form the legal basis for the EPA's climate change regulations.

“The report does not question or even address the science used or the conclusions reached — by the EPA under this and the previous administration — that greenhouse gas pollution pose a threat to the health and welfare of the American people," said EPA in a statement on Wednesday. "Instead, the report is focused on questions of process and procedure."

The investigation, requested by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), set aside the science behind the EPA's conclusion that greenhouse gases threaten humans, instead probing whether the EPA should have engaged in a more thorough process of review before reaching its conclusion. Specifically at issue is whether the EPA followed the necessary procedures for reviewing scientific material, as required under White House Office of Management and Budget guidelines.

"While it may be debatable what impact, if any, this had on EPA's finding, it is clear that EPA did not follow all the required steps," Inspector Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. said in a Wednesday statement. Neither the EPA nor OMB support the inspector general's claim.

The EPA said in a Wednesday statement that the agency "undertook a thorough and deliberate process in the development of this finding, including a careful review of the wide range of peer-reviewed science."

"Since EPA finalized the endangerment finding in December of 2009, the vast body of peer reviewed science that EPA relied on to make its determination has undergone further examination by a wide range of independent scientific bodies," the statement continued. "All of those reviews have upheld the validity of the science."

Even though the report focused on procedure and not science, it may provide ammunition for climate deniers like Inhofe, who said in a statement Wednesday that the inspector general's report showed "the very foundation of President Obama's job-destroying agenda was rushed, biased and flawed."

Environmentalists were quick to join the regulatory agency in striking back against opponents of emissions controls like Inhofe.

“The EPA Inspector General in no way questions the science underlying the endangerment finding," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "It is time to move on to protect the American people from the impacts of climate change, which we are already beginning to see.”

The report comes just two days after a Daily Caller reporter erroneously reported that in phasing in carbon emissions regulations, the EPA was looking to vastly expand its power, "asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers."

The story seemed wrong -- there are only 17,000 employees at EPA, for starters -- and it was. Yet Daily Caller editor David Martosko is defending it, not because it the numbers are at all accurate, but because he thinks it plays into a compelling narrative, and one that's likely to appeal to opponents of the EPA's greenhouse gas regulations.

"The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What's 'comically wrong' is the idea that half of Washington won't admit it. The EPA's own court filing speaks volumes," Martosko said in an email.

"What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer."

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