Endangerment finding documents disappear from website

Source: Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

U.S. EPA has removed a link to documents on its website for the research that underpins the Obama administration’s consequential “endangerment finding” for greenhouse gases.

The link on EPA’s website titled “Technical Support Document for the Findings” now yields an error message: “Page Not Found (Restricted).” Other links on the page, including “legal basis” for the endangerment finding and “climate change facts,” have similarly been removed.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told E&E in an email, “I am not aware of anyone burying this information on the website.” It’s unclear whether the technical support document is accessible elsewhere on EPA’s website.

The removal comes as speculation swirls about whether the Trump EPA will reverse the Obama administration’s 2009 finding. And the Trump administration has already been under fire from critics for burying some other climate change links on its website — including some that have been active for 20 years through Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

EPA has previously said its website is “undergoing changes that reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.”

The Obama-era endangerment finding holds that carbon dioxide threatens public health and welfare. That legal finding gives EPA the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

Conservative think tanks and Trump administration transition officials have called for the administration to challenge the endangerment finding in court because it is a powerful legal tool and is the basis for Obama-era climate policy, including the Clean Power Plan rule.

Pruitt has reportedly discussed taking on the endangerment finding in court but has not publicly committed to doing so.

Pruitt is also working to establish a team of researchers that will look to cast doubt on established climate science, by putting it through a red team, blue team approach that is more frequently used in military operations.

Asked about reports that Pruitt intends to challenge the finding, Bowman called that “unsubstantiated speculation.”

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said the information contained in the documents can’t be erased.

“These are documents published in the Federal Register; they’re not going to disappear,” he said.

Schmidt added that removing the scientific information doesn’t make sense because the documents are part of an extensive court case. Burying them will not diminish their relevance or their findings, said Schmidt, who helped review the research findings.

The technical support document was based on more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific studies. It draws on research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences. The document can be found through an archive search of federal documents.

Click here for an archived version of EPA’s technical support document.