scandal

Another federal coverup, how environmental laws waste money

In a previous post, I discussed how the structure of environmental laws encourages a cozy “sue and settle” relationship between some environmental groups and federal regulatory agencies.  This quirk of the law allows the agency to obtain court sanctioned, negotiated settlements that bypass input from affected parties and the public.  This structure of environmental laws allows environmental groups to impose delay after delay in federal decisions by charging that the federal agency failed to follow proper process.  This wastes taxpayer money both directly due to delay and from the need of the federal agency to defend against the litigation or repeat the process under the environmental laws.

Attorney Karen Budd-Falen says this practice is both a scandal and waste of taxpayer dollars.  The following is her charge (I’ve made some minor edits for clarity):

This is a plea for help, to raise awareness and public outcry regarding yet another federal government cover-up.  The scandal –- the Justice and Treasury Departments’ refusal to inform the American taxpayer how much, and for what, their tax dollars are being spent and … the inability of Congress to put forth legislation that requires this information to be available to the American public.  How can there be reform of a crisis (or how can radical environmental groups prove that our claims of abuse are blown out of proportion) without transparency and an accounting?

According to a study from Drexel University, there are 6,500 national and 20,000 local environmental organizations with an estimated 20-30 million members.  This study opines that the “environmental movement” dwarfs other modern social movements such as the civil rights or peace movements.  Because it would be impossible to study all 6,500 national groups, we reviewed all the federal district court complaints over a series of years for just 3 of these groups and found:

–Thirty-five percent (35%) of federal court complaints are filed ONLY based on a missed procedural step under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA);

–Twenty nine percent (29%) of federal court complaints are filed ONLY based upon missed timelines under the Endangered Species Act (ESA):

–Eleven percent (11%) of all federal court complaints are filed because of a failure to complete the process for considering an action under “Section 7” of the ESA.

Importantly, these are not cases where the federal court can rule that there is harm to the environment or that additional substantive actions are necessary; the ONLY thing a court can do is send the case back to the federal government for more process.

But that is not why this litigation is filed: litigation is filed because the courts have the power to delay private lives and livelihoods while the federal government completes more process.  The harm to American families is not whether the federal government can comply with a process, the harm is in the endless delay in issuing a decision so that America can move forward.  It is red-tape at its [worst], and radical environmental groups are absolutely making the most of the red tape and killing [the livelihoods of] American families in the meantime.

Let me give you more details:

As stated above, this firm reviewed the federal court complaints to analyze the claims underlying each of their cases; the families that are being targeted by the litigation; and what a federal court could do to grant the relief requested.  Over 400 federal court complaints individually analyzed were filed by either the Western Watersheds Project (WWP), WildEarth Guardians (WEG) or the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).  WWP’s Policy Memos list as a “to do”: “Get all cows and sheep off federal lands ASAP!”  The WEG uses ” litigation, science, public outreach and organizing, the media, and lobbying” to make progress towards their goals of phasing out fossil fuels, obtaining formal listings of species under the Endangered Species Act; ensuring public lands “are not destroyed” by “over development, overgrazing, or natural resource extraction.”  CBD is noted as a group that uses litigation and petitions to “effect change.”  Its campaigns include listing species, stopping unsustainable human population growth and species extinction crisis and opposition to motorized recreation.

For these groups, we documented:

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the litigation tool of choice for the WWP and CBD, with 58% and 36% of their complaints respectively including a NEPA claim.  NEPA is a process; according to the Supreme Court, NEPA’s purpose is “to ensure a fully informed and well-considered decision, not necessarily a decision the judges of the Court of Appeals or of this Court would have reached had they been members of the decision making unit of the agency.”  Thus, the courts enforce the NEPA process, but rarely over turn the substance of the federal agency decision.

The problem, however, is that the courts are willing to enjoin or stop a project or decision until the federal government complies with the NEPA process.  So what does this mean for American families?  Consider that 89% of the federal district court complaints filed by WWP directly attack livestock grazing by claiming a violation of a NEPA procedure and then seeking to stop (temporarily or permanently) a rancher’s use of the lands he has used for generations because the federal government violated the NEPA process.  NEPA is a powerful hammer to eliminate these families because if they rely on the federal government to make a decision and the federal government cannot get through enough procedural hoops to make a decision, that American family cannot continue to make a living.   These ranch families are not the only ones under attack because of litigation over process.  The industries that produce America’s energy from our natural resources are bearing the brunt of the NEPA litigation from the WEG and CBD, specifically 22% and 18% of the federal court complaints respectively oppose natural resource producing power plants, energy production, and mining.  Even “green energy” is now being attacked by the WWP, CBD and WEG as part of their litigation strategy.  Again, the issue being litigated is not whether energy production is beneficial or detrimental to the environment, but whether the federal government properly completed the process. And just like the harm to the ranching families, the Courts can stop all movement until the NEPA process is complete and the radical groups cease their litigation wanting more and more process.

Another huge litigation arena is the federal government’s compliance with the timelines in the Endangered Species Act.  Over 46% of the cases filed by the WEG are ONLY to force the federal government to comply with these time frames; 30% of the CBD cases and 25% of the WWP cases contain the same claims.  As with NEPA, the courts cannot enforce any listing or critical habitat decision; the court can ONLY hold that the federal agencies failed to comply with the timelines and then pay attorneys fees to these radical groups because the federal government cannot meet the time-frames set by Congress.  Attorney hourly fees can range from $500.00 per hour to $750.00 per hour.   And it has cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars paying radical groups to harm American workers.

American families are being targeted by groups being paid your tax dollars to put Americans out of work, not in the name of environmental protection, but in the name of procedures and technicalities. Please contact your Congressional Representatives; we have to stop yet another federal government cover-up.  We need an accounting now.

Wryheat comment:

Environmental laws, as currently structured, contain too many bureaucratic hoops and traps that have nothing to do with environmental issues. For many federal agencies it is all about process rather than substance and good environmental stewardship. Environmental groups have learned to take advantage of the bureaucratic hoops and traps to delay the process and enrich themselves to the detriment of American families, industries, and our economy.

See also:

Property Rights and Freedom

Regulating behind closed doors, the cozy relationship between the Feds and environmental groups

Mining and the bureaucracy

How NEPA crushes productivity

The EPA is destroying America

Repeal the Endangered Species Act

Endangered Species paperwork to cost $206,098,920

Climategate Update

Battle of graphsContinued analysis of emails and reports leaked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in eastern England, which have been confirmed as real by CRU, show not only an effort to manipulate climate data, but that their computer database is in disarray. Both the IPCC and the EPA have relied heavily on these databases to form their policy decisions.

At the very least, Congress should thoroughly investigate the state of the science before passing any Cap & Trade system and before the EPA promulgates rules about carbon dioxide “pollution.”

The following is from a CBS News report including their embedded links.

The leaked documents (see our previous coverage) come from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in eastern England. In global warming circles, the CRU wields outsize influence: it claims the world’s largest temperature data set, and its work and mathematical models were incorporated into the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report. That report, in turn, is what the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged it “relies on most heavily” when concluding that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and should be regulated.

Last week’s leaked e-mails range from innocuous to embarrassing and, critics believe, scandalous. They show that some of the field’s most prominent scientists were so wedded to theories of man-made global warming that they ridiculed dissenters who asked for copies of their data (“have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots”), cheered the deaths of skeptical journalists, and plotted how to keep researchers who reached different conclusions from publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

One e-mail message, apparently from CRU director Phil Jones, references the U.K.’s Freedom of Information Act when asking another researcher to delete correspondence that might be disclosed in response to public records law: “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.” Another, also apparently from Jones: global warming skeptics “have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.” (Jones was a contributing author to the chapter of the U.N.’s IPCC report titled “Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes.”)

In addition to e-mail messages, the roughly 3,600 leaked documents posted on sites including Wikileaks.org and EastAngliaEmails.com include computer code and a description of how an unfortunate programmer named “Harry” — possibly the CRU’s Ian “Harry” Harris — was tasked with resuscitating and updating a key temperature database that proved to be problematic. Some excerpts from what appear to be his notes, emphasis added”

I am seriously worried that our flagship gridded data product is produced by Delaunay triangulation – apparently linear as well. As far as I can see, this renders the station counts totally meaningless. It also means that we cannot say exactly how the gridded data is arrived at from a statistical perspective – since we’re using an off-the-shelf product that isn’t documented sufficiently to say that. Why this wasn’t coded up in Fortran I don’t know – time pressures perhaps? Was too much effort expended on homogenisation, that there wasn’t enough time to write a gridding procedure? Of course, it’s too late for me to fix it too. Meh.

I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seem to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar coordinates. I know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that’s the case? Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight… So, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!

One thing that’s unsettling is that many of the assigned WMo codes for Canadian stations do not return any hits with a web search. Usually the country’s met office, or at least the Weather Underground, show up – but for these stations, nothing at all. Makes me wonder if these are long-discontinued, or were even invented somewhere other than Canada!

Climategate

In the past few days a major scandal in climate science has developed. Someone hacked in to the files of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) based at the University of East Anglia, in England (aka Hadley CRU). The CRU has been a major proponent of anthropogenic global warming and a principal in report preparation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

More than 1,000 internal emails and several reports from CRU have been posted on the internet and the blogosphere has gone wild with the implications of the revealed messages. Dr. Phil Jones, head of CRU, confirmed that his organization has been hacked and that the emails are accurate.

The emails reveal a concerted effort on the part of a small group of scientists to manipulate data, suppress dissent, and foil the dissemination of the information by “losing” data and skirting Britain’s Freedom of Information Act. The emails reveal that the contention that there is dangerous human-induced global warming, is not supported by the data, that those supporting that contention knew it, and sought to control the discussion so as to hide the unreliable nature of what they were claiming.

This revelation should be noted by policy makers since it undermines the justification for control of carbon dioxide emissions.

Comment by Dr. Roy Spencer on the incident:

While it is too early to tell just yet, there seems to be considerable … evidence that data have been hidden or destroyed to avoid Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data requests; data have been manipulated in order to get results that best suit the pro-anthropogenic global warming agenda of the IPCC; e-mails that contain incriminating discussions are being deleted. And, on the bright side, we skeptics seem to be quite a thorn in the side of the IPCC.

In reading these e-mails from the ‘other side’ of the scientific debate I am particularly amazed at the mind set of a few of these scientists. I exchange e-mails with other like-minded (read ‘skeptical’) scientists, as do the IPCC scientists with their peers. But never do I hear of anyone manipulating climate data to achieve a certain end. I must say that I am pleased to see that NCAR scientist Kevin Trenberth admits that it is a “travesty” that no one can explain the lack of global warming in recent years. See: http://tinyurl.com/ylz7ss5 See a follow-up blog: http://tinyurl.com/yzdh8zy

Battle-of-graphs

 

You can read some of the news stories here:

London Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/yhx9juw

Guardian (UK): http://tinyurl.com/yf5c2er

Canada Free Press: http://tinyurl.com/yljzn9h This one names a prominent University of Arizona professor as being involved.

Herald Sun, Australia: http://tinyurl.com/ybka6az

Examiner.com Phoenix: http://tinyurl.com/yd372g2

This article shows several of the emails including one from Phil Jones that says in part how he hid the decline in proxy temperature data and appended other data to produce the infamous “hockey stick” graph.

Here is access to a searchable database of the emails:

http://www.anelegantchaos.org/cru/index.php

Note to readers of RealClimate.org: Many RealClimate bloggers are principals in the scandal.

This is story is still unfolding. The next few weeks should be interesting.