EPA Admin Defends Climate Science

| Wed Mar. 3, 2010 5:25 PM EST

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said that, if successful, efforts to block her agency’s determination that climate change threatens human health would represent an "enormous step backward for science." Moves to block the agency run against "multiple lines of scientific inquiry" and widespread consensus among climate scientists, she told legislators.

"The science behind climate change is settled," Jackson said.

Jackson, who testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, is currently facing bipartisan legislative challenges to the finding in both the Senate and the House, and legal challenges from a number of polluters and trade groups.

Jackson was questioned closely by Lisa Murkowski, lead sponsor of the Senate resolution that would render the agency's conclusion on climate change null and void. Murkowski accused Jackson of not being clear about the agency’s intentions on climate. While she quoted Jackson calling for comprehensive legislation, she argued that the agency "is basically doing whatever they want."

Jackson maintained that while she does, in fact, prefer comprehensive legislation from Congress – which she’s said numerous times before--the EPA is legally compelled to move forward on regulations, as the Supreme Court directed it to in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, which found the greenhouse gases could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. "I would like nothing more than to see Congress enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation," said Jackson. But, she added, "The law compels me as EPA administrator to follow the Supreme Court decision of April 2007. The law says EPA has to move forward. The rule of law and my respect for it demands we have to move forward."

Murkowski wasn’t sated. "I don't know that I'm any more clear based on your statement this morning as to whether or not you think it should be the Congress and those of us that are elected by our constituents and accountable to them to enact and advance climate policy," she said.

Murkowski's efforts to block the agency were matched in the House yesterday with a measure from 79 Republicans. But while Murkowski maintains that greenhouse gas emissions are a problem, just one that Congress should deal with instead of the administration, the House members yesterday launched an all-out assault on the science. Joe Barton (R-Texas), lead sponsor of the measure, called the EPA’s finding "fatally flawed" and "not based on sound science." Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), called CO2 "an essential element for plant growth and life here on this planet that the EPA should not "simply write it off as somehow a pollutant."