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McCarthy Fires Back in War Over Science McCarthy Fires Back in War Over Science

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McCarthy Fires Back in War Over Science


By Jason Plautz (@jason_plautz), Ben Geman (@ben_geman), and Clare Foran (@ckmarie)


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy fired back in the war over her agency's science, slamming critics who "manufacture uncertainties that stop us from taking urgently needed climate action."

The agency's scientific studies have become an increasingly convenient target for industry groups and congressional Republicans bent on stopping EPA regulations. Republicans have subpoenaed several health studies that EPA relies on for its air-pollution rules, and increasing attention has been heaped on the agency's scientific-review panels.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, McCarthy went after the "small but vocal group of critics" who she said were more interested in "looking to cloud the science with uncertainty … to keep EPA from doing the very job that Congress gave us to do."


McCarthy also touched on the agency's controversial use of human testing to measure the impact of air pollution, the subject of a recent Inspector General's Office report that largely said the agency followed proper procedure. Critics have said that the human tests put the subjects at risk.

In her speech, McCarthy countered that the human tests helped scientists to "better understand biological responses to different levels of air pollutants."

"Science is real and verifiable," she said. "With the health of our families and our futures at stake, the American people expect us to act on the facts, not spend precious time and taxpayer money refuting manufactured uncertainties."

Of course, it didn't take long for McCarthy's tough tone to draw the expected political response that will ensure the war over science continues in full force. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, within hours had issued a statement accusing EPA of "doubling down on secret science."


"EPA's leadership is willfully ignoring the big picture and defending EPA's practices of using science that is, in fact, secret due to the refusal of the Agency to share the underlying data with Congress and the American public," Vitter said.

Jason Plautz


IN CASE YOU FORGOT SOMETHING ABOUT SEN. MARY LANDRIEU. The Louisiana Democrat facing a tough reelection fight is the leader of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It's a fact she's promoting heavily as she seeks a fourth term representing the oil-and-gas-producing state.

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"Louisiana can't afford to lose Mary Landrieu," states Boysie Bollinger, CEO of Louisiana's Bollinger Shipyards, in her latest ad released Monday. The Republican Bollinger says he backs Landrieu because: "She's chairman of the Energy committee, the most powerful position a person can have for Louisiana."

COAL-HEAVY POWER GROUP BENDS WHITE HOUSE EAR. Representatives of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association are latest—but certainly not the last—power-industry officials to lobby White House aides about a major upcoming climate rule.

A newly posted meeting record shows that the group met with White House and EPA aides April 14 to discuss EPA's upcoming carbon-emissions standards for existing power plants. EPA plans to float the rule in draft form in June but right now it's under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

A handout the from the rural power group brought to the meeting emphasizes how much the coops rely on coal for power—it's 70 percent of their generation mix. A separate document included with the meeting record shows that the group is concerned that the regulation could put them at a competitive disadvantage or jeopardize their ability to meet loan obligations.

SLOVAKIA INKS GAS DEAL TO AID UKRAINE. As the threat that Russia may cut off deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine loom large, Slovakia is set to begin shipments of gas to the embattled Eastern European nation. (Associated Press)

MINE BLAST DOCUMENTARY TO GET UPDATE. Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship said on Twitter that he'll release an updated version of his documentary on the deadly Upper Big Branch mine explosion sometime in May. The initial documentary gained notoriety after Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was duped into participating and threatened legal action against the team behind the video, which said investigators were wrong about the cause of the explosion. Blankenship's tweet said the new video would include comments from President Obama, West Virginia congressmen, and other government officials.

PLANT RETIREMENTS AFFECT EMISSION PROJECTIONS. The Energy Information Administration said Monday that projections of carbon-dioxide emissions vary depending on retirement predictions for nuclear and coal-fired power plants. Faster-than-expected coal retirements would lower emissions significantly, while nuclear retirements would mean increased projected emissions.

ENERGY DEPARTMENT OUTLINES GRID SECURITY. DOE is out with a new recommendations for utility companies to shore up grid security in the event of a cyberattack. (Timothy Cama, The Hill)

RUSSIA AND IRAN SET TO DEEPEN ENERGY TIES. Faced with the threat of sanctions, the two countries are negotiating an energy deal with a price tag of between $8 billion and $10 billion. The deal would allow Russia to sell electricity to Iran. (Rick Gladstone, New York Times)

GREENPEACE CHARTS COURSE FOR NORTH SEA. Environmental activists from Greenpeace International plan to confront a Russian oil tanker carrying oil sourced from the Arctic. (Toby Sterling, Associated Press)

EAT A CRICKET, SAVE THE WORLD. In a bid to find a more sustainable source of protein that lacks the land-use and greenhouse-gas concerns of cattle, some are increasingly looking to insects, with crickets acting as the "gateway bug." (Jason Plautz, National Journal)

CAP WILL SEAL CHERNOBYL. The New York Times looks at a $1.5 billion arch that will cover the site of the deadly 1986 nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl to seal up the site and remove the risk of additional contamination. (Henry Fountain, New York Times)

STUDY CLEARS CAMELS OVER CLIMATE DANGER. It's long been assumed that camels, llamas, alpacas, and other camelid creatures emit significant amounts of methane in digestion, since their digestive systems are similar to ruminants like cows and sheep. But a new study published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One frees the camels from blame, saying they produce far less of the greenhouse gas than ruminants of a similar size. (Alex Kirby, The Guardian)


WILL THE PRESIDENT PUNT ON KEYSTONE? What does Obama have to lose by delaying a final determination and what does he stand to gain?

"The president's decision to delay his Keystone XL decision is putting at risk his party's control of the U.S. Senate. Predicting congressional majorities is very much an inside-the-Beltway parlor game, but one that carries real-world consequences." –David Holt, president, Consumer Energy Alliance


CHEMICAL REFORM HEARING. The House Energy and Commerce Environment and the Economy Subcommittee holds a hearing on a discussion draft of a bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act.

SKILLED LABOR HEARING. The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on opportunities for skilled-trades workers in the energy sector.

ENERGY BILLS MARKUP. The House Energy and Commerce Committee opens a markup on three energy bills, including a bill from Rep. Cory Gardner to fast-track applications for the export of domestic gas.

CALIFORNIA LAND BILLS HEARING. The House Natural Resources Public Lands Subcommittee holds a hearing to review two bills associated with public lands in California.

SUSTAINABILITY REPORT RELEASE. The Worldwatch Institute hosts a discussion on its annual State of the World report titled Governing for Sustainability.

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION DISCUSSION. The Woodrow Wilson Center Science and Technology Innovation Program hosts a discussion titled "Environmental Information: The Roles of Experts and the Public."

ENERGY AND FOREIGN POLICY EVENT. The Atlantic Council and the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group hold a conference on "American Energy Prowess in a Strategic Foreign Policy Perspective."

INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT DISCUSSION. The Environmental Law Institute hosts a discussion on the laws around industrial accidents after last year's fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

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