As readers of this blog know well, the EPA is out of control. Since the dawn of the Obama era, the agency has spurned all its rightful partners—i.e., States, Congress, industry, and even fellow federal agencies. In their stead, EPA has embraced a handful of green special interests that had spent considerable time and money getting Obama elected. On their behalf (the NRDC-set), the agency has been busy imposing bad policy. So you’d think that McCarthy’s would be a hot seat, when she testified before the Congress.
That said, Administrator McCarthy is a well-seasoned bureaucrat, who’s been doing this for a long time. Over the course of her career, she’s gleaned all the classic tricks of obfuscation, including (but not limited to) ‘The Big 3 R’s’:
- The refusal: When presented with a difficult question, one claims ignorance and says he/she’’ll get back to the questioner with an answer.
- The rote: “The rote” is a close cousin of the filibuster; it entails the recitation of canned paragraphs about appealing subjects that are apropos nothing (e.g.., rambling about how ‘children are the future’).
- The redirect: This occurs when the witness simply answers a question that is related but different to the query that was actually posed.
Administrator McCarthy deftly employed all of these techniques on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittees. And they (the rote, the refusal, and the redirect) were essential to her success in deflecting almost all of the hard questions directed her way. Yet they weren’t sufficient. In addressing the toughest questions, Administrator McCarthy relied on a technique that can’t be beat: She stretched the truth, often to the breaking point.
Below, I chronicle her untruths. I do so by excerpting the question delivered by the Member of Congress, Administrator McCarthy’s response, and my commentary.
Rep. Ed Whitfield: How Confident are you that you can defend the use of 111d to implement the ESPS?
Administrator McCarthy: I feel very confident. One of the reasons I say that is the extensive outreach that the agency has done to each and every state to all the stakeholders.
This is a lie by omission. McCarthy loves to wax lyrical about the “unprecedented” outreach the agency undertook in crafting the Clean Power Plan. However, her account is belied by a New York Times article from this summer, in which it is reported that NRDC wrote the “blueprint” for the regulation. Evidently, EPA’s outreach was all for show.
Rep Louis Capps: Could you give us a comparison of the costs and benefits of the clean power plan?
Administrator McCarthy: In 2030, the benefits of the CPP will range anywhere from $55 to $93 billion, compared to costs of $7.3 to $8.3 billion. It is a significant benefit. And the one thing I want to make clear again, is that I consider these to be investments in the future. I consider these to be investments in clean economies and job growth.
Wow! For starters, McCarthy’s purported benefits of the Clean Power Plan are a total sham. They are based on a manipulation of statistics known as the “social cost of carbon,” and have been debunked by my colleague Marlo Lewis (see, e.g., here). So, the “benefits” are illusory; yet her treatment of the regulation’s costs is also risible. Quite obviously, “investments” in “clean economies and job growth” are well outside EPA’s functional expertise. Simply put, I (and most other voters) don’t want EPA/NRDC dictating my investments.
Rep. Tim Murphy: “[after citing a National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) letter to EPA disputing the agency’s cost estimates for a rule known as the Carbon Pollution Standards] I wonder why you’re ignoring what this other federal agency is saying [NETL]?”
Administrator McCarthy: “…We worked very closely with NETL, back and forth, on how we would best represent the costs associated with these technologies. And I believe we included our best judgment, and our tech folks are very good, and we aligned very well with DOE and put the best proposal forward.”
Another bald face lie! Her account squarely contradicts the word of Charles McConnell, who was the head of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, which includes NETL, while EPA was working on the Carbon Pollution Standards. Late last summer, McConnell testified before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and he said that EPA rejected collaboration in any meaningful sense. McConnell told the committee that “a true collaborative effort would have been far different from what I observed.” According to Mr. McConnell, EPA viewed the interagency process as a “box-checking exercise” and he called the agency’s attitude “disingenuous.”
Rep. Kathy Castor: [Regarding the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks] I really appreciate that the administration has continued to push here, because what we’ve seen is revolutionary in the types of vehicles that are available to consumers right now… Do you have any recent hard data on the savings for American businesses and families?
Administrator McCarthy: “…I think the proof in the pudding, if you will, is that you can’t a see a car commercial where they don’t talk about energy efficiency, because the car companies now know that everyone wants fuel efficient vehicles.”
This isn’t a lie, but it sure is amazing nonetheless, for Rep. Castor and Administrator McCarthy avow agreement that government fuel economy regulations somehow improved or otherwise abetted the cause of consumer choice. This is patently absurd; CAFE standards, by definition, tie the hands of automakers and thereby restrict consumer choice. It is troubling that such powerful people believe as much. Finally, it’s noteworthy that the substance of her claim is as wrong as the theory behind it: The recent drop in gas prices precipitated a big increase in the purchase of fuel inefficient cars and trucks. The consumer rush to gas guzzlers was such that President Obama found it necessary to admonish Americans for doing so. The President’s actions belie McCarthy’s claim.
Rep. Bob Latta: “[EPA Office of Air and Radiation chief Janet McCabe, stated that transmission and distribution efficiency are other opportunities for states to reduce CO2 emissions beyond the building blocks. Does EPA claim authority to require transmission and distribution owners to increase efficiency, and, if so, by what authority?
Administrator McCarthy: No, I think that assistant administrator McCabe was mentioning the fact that we provided flexibility in the Clean Power Plan, so that even if it’s not the building blocks that are achieving the reductions for the standard, there are many ways in which states can achieve those standards outside the boundaries of those bb, and we’re encouraging that flexibility to be considered. We are not encouraging any state to do anything that they don’t consider that it’s cost-effective and reasonable for them to do there’s just lots of choices, and its maximum flexibility for what states want to do.
Here, McCarthy is spinning the old “flexibility” canard, which I addressed earlier this week. In fact, McCarthy’s use of “flexibility” is purely Orwellian. That’s because the Clean Power Plan is structured to wring blood from oranges, so there’s very little actual latitude when complying with the regulation. Here’s how it works: The rule takes all the known means of reducing GHG emissions within the electricity sector (plant efficiency, fuel switching, green energy production quotas, and “demand-side management), ratchets them up to an impossible degree, calculates the GHG reductions commensurate with each of these measures, and then uses the resultant aggregate emissions reductions to set a state-wide standard. In simpler terms, the rule’s targets are based on policies that are so thorough and stringent, as to leave the States no room to but to impose every known means of climate mitigation in the electricity sector, at levels that are unachievable in practice. (I wish I was exaggerating). This is not flexibility under any known definition of the word.
On Thursday afternoon, Administrator McCarthy appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee, to again discuss the budget. Below, I’ve excerpted a bonus duplicity.
Rep. Michael Simpson: Your budget assumes a relatively flat workforce, but it does shifts some employees around. The budget proposes creating 65 new FTEs for GHG regulatory work and 24 FTEs that are attorneys to assist the legal and regulatory needs. Really?
Administrator McCarthy: These are not litigation attorneys. Again, these are attorneys that we feel we need to properly do our core work. There is a legal review of permits when they go out. There’s a legal review of plans that need to be approved by the agency. And we’ve heard from States over and over again—as well as many of you [i.e. Members of Congress]—about getting quicker in terms of the work we do. We have been doing an exercise within the agency to look at our decision making processes and to find where we need to add resources so that we can be assured of getting them done in a quicker way. And many times it’s because our attorneys are not available and focuses on these key deliverables. We’re trying to do what we’re supposed to do.
Another galling lie! According to the agency’s Congressional Justification for its FY 2016 budget, “In FY 2016, the EPA has identified an urgent need to provide critical legal counsel in support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is the President’s highest priority for the EPA and is central to climate change mitigation efforts in the United States.” Accordingly, the budget asks for funding for 20 lawyers to assist with the Clean Power Plan; previously, I’ve called this budgetary request “the NRDC full-employment fund.” That’s the reality. However, Administrator McCarthy would have Congress believe that these lawyers will be tasked with rending the agency more efficient generally (rather than solely working on the Clean Power Plan). Her statement is doubly outrageous because the agency’s climate change regulations—the ones on which these new lawyers hires will work—are discretionary duties. By monopolizing the agency’s time, there are fewer resources for the agency to perform its non-discretionary duties. Simply put: Her answer isn’t just a lie, it’s the diametric opposite of the truth.