Committee Leaders Question Administration’s Work on Social Cost of Carbon Cost Estimates

September 30, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee leaders last week followed up on a previous committee staff request for briefings on the administration’s efforts and coordination regarding the use of cost estimates for the social cost of carbon (SCC) from agencies participating in an “Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “the SCC is an estimate of the economic damages associated” with increases in carbon dioxide and federal agencies could potentially use the estimates to advance costly new rulemakings. In letters to the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, the Treasury Department, and EPA, the leaders requested information related to each individual agency’s work to develop the estimates.

"The real 'social cost' of these policies are higher unemployment and wretched poverty, which is why the administration is likely stonewalling the public's right to know if the evidence supporting this newest regulation is legitimate or 'fuzzy math.' EPA's anti-coal policies have real-world consequences, but the administration's social cost of carbon efforts are not limited to just coal or the EPA, and we want answers from the other agencies involved. I look forward to making that determination once the agencies comply with our request for information,” said Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA).

In the letters to the federal agencies, the committee leaders wrote, “These controversial estimates are currently being used by federal agencies to place dollar values on the potential climate damages purportedly avoided by carbon dioxide reduction in regulatory actions, with measurements of such effects extending hundreds of years into the future. The implications of quantifying future impacts raises serious questions about how federal agencies are developing these estimates to advance rulemaking.”

In addition to Murphy, the letters were signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Vice Chairman of the Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX).

The members continued, “We write following informal efforts by committee staff this past August to schedule briefings with certain federal agencies that were listed in a Technical Support Document as participating in an ‘Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon.’ … The agencies contacted by committee staff have not accommodated our requests for briefings. Based on the agencies responses, it seems agency officials were not fully aware of how their department participated in the working group, or they were reluctant to brief staff on specific details of their agency's participation without first coordinating with other participants in the interagency working group.”

The leaders request a briefing for committee staff, as well as written answers to the following questions by October 11, 2013.

  1. Please provide a written description of your agency’s work on SCC and its participation in any interagency process on the subject.
  2. Please identify the staff and offices within your agency that were involved with SCC estimate development and who managed the process both at your agency and for the interagency group.
  3. Please identify what records your agency maintained relating to your agency’s involvement or participation in the development of SCC. This request would include memoranda, analyses, papers, drafts, and any schedules, agendas, calendars, or appointment or scheduling requests relating to SCC and the interagency working group.
  4. Please identify whether your agency consulted with any third parties, including individuals or entities outside the federal government, regarding your agency’s work on SCC.

To read the letter, click here.