Lisa Jackson's EPA Throws Out Science for Politics

EPA’s sloppy science and political agenda is hurting America’s energy future.


Tom Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research.

The Environmental Protection Agency is fulfilling its mission, at least if you ask President Obama. During his January 10 pep rally at EPA headquarters in Washington D.C.—a behemoth building of nearly 1.9 million square feet and housing more than 5,000 federal employees—the president lavished praise on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for leading the effort to "keep us moving towards energy independence."

Never mind the fact that EPA's statutory mission has nothing to do with energy independence, but rather is concerned with "protecting the nation's land, air, and water resources." It's worth considering whether or not Lisa Jackson's EPA is helping or hurting efforts to free American consumers from a dependence on foreign sources of energy. Two recent examples come to mind.

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

On December 8, EPA released a preliminary report from a ground water investigation near Pavilion, Wyo., that took place between March 2009 and April 2011. The findings sent shockwaves through the energy industry as EPA alleged high concentrations of benzene, xylene, methane, and other toxic substances in the region's water supply and claimed for the first time in more than 50 years that regulators have found evidence of contamination near hydraulic fracturing sites.

Yet it turns out that EPA's water samples were not handled properly and were tested far beyond the agency's own mandated time frame. Moreover, evidence that EPA didn't purge the test wells properly before gathering samples substantiates concerns that the agency's report is grounded in sloppy science and an increasingly politicized opposition to fracturing technology.

[Read Thomas Pyle: EPA Head Misleads The Public in Her Crusade against Coal]

In fact, Wyoming-based water development experts have noted that the EPA's report does not constitute a "a scientifically valid study." Even Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recognizes the problems with the report, telling reporters in Cheyenne that "the jury is still out" on the study and that "the real facts" are needed to determine why the Pavilion data "is different from what we have across the country."

It seems that if the EPA was committed to "energy independence," as President Obama alleges, it would be careful to conduct environmental impact studies with the highest degree of professional and scientific standards, and it would seek comprehensive peer review of its findings well before disseminating an apparently half-baked analysis to the American public. The only reason an agency would do otherwise is to influence public opinion rather than engage in real science.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the Government Invest in Green Energy?]

Second, EPA Administrator Jackson has worked overtime to delay and derail the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Texas coast. Last summer, EPA deemed the State Department's analysis of the pipeline's necessity as "unduly narrow," and "inadequate."  Previously, Jackson urged the State Department to consider "upstream greenhouse gas emissions in its evaluation," a curious factor that assumes America is Canada's only customer and tar sands oil won't be produced and shipped to Asian markets if the United States balks.

Time and again, EPA relies on unscientific analysis and ever-changing standards of environmental impact to delay and derail significant energy projects that reduce our dependence on unstable oil regimes and better utilize our own vast natural resources.

Meanwhile, trillions of barrels of oil go undeveloped, quadrillions of cubic feet of natural gas go unexplored, and hundreds of thousands of jobs go uncreated so Obama administration can make a nakedly political statement and stand on dubious environmental studies to score cheap political points with the environmental left.

  • Read Peter Roff: Obama's Keystone XL Pipeline Rejection Is a Gift to China
  • Read Mort Zuckerman on America's energy future.
  • Read the U.S. News debate: Is It Time to Drill in the Arctic Refuge?