Given Jackson’s assault across the productive elements of the economy, it’s a wonder things aren’t worse. They could quite easily have been. Patrick J. Michaels, director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, argues that there have been mitigating factors.
“[Jackson] has been very lucky that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas increased simultaneously with EPA greenhouse-gas diktats,” he tells National Review Online. “As a result, there’s little effect of her anti-coal jihad on electricity costs, for now.”
Not that this has stopped Jackson from trying to regulate fracking, too. In fact, it provides a classic example of how the EPA, under her leadership, has misused, manipulated, or outright ignored science.
In December 2011, Jackson’s EPA released a preliminary report from Pavillion, Wyo., claiming that fracking was contaminating ground water. It would have been an unprecedented conclusion, perhaps even creating the momentum for Congress to allow the EPA to regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
If that sounds like a powerful political motivation to find contamination, it was — never mind that the EPA’s actual science was questionable. The EPA based its entire preliminary conclusion on a mere four samples, too few to effectively test a hypothesis. Different labs reported different findings based on the same samples, and one lab botched the tests so badly that it found contamination even on the blank, clean samples intended for comparison. And even if there was contamination, it was quite possibly from the EPA itself. The EPA had drilled its two test wells using dense soda ash, which is also used to manufacture products such as detergent. And the equipment the EPA used to collect the samples was chemically treated and could easily have contaminated the samples.
The EPA’s report was, at best, sloppy, and at worst, willfully deceptive. After the Wyoming governor and others objected to the EPA’s methods, the agency agreed to retest its samples. The U.S. Geological Survey also did its own tests in Pavillion — and refused to use one of the EPA’s wells because it was so problematic. No surprise: The USGS findings were very different, but that hasn’t stopped the EPA from claiming findings were “generally consistent.” Nevertheless, the Pavillion fight is ongoing, and the EPA’s revised study is up for public comment until January 15.
That’s not the only time the EPA has come under fire for shoddy scientific methods during Jackson’s tenure. In 2009, Jackson classified carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant. Cato’s Michaels did a comprehensive, page-by-page fact check of the EPA study underpinning the carbon dioxide decision and found numerous flaws.
Michaels was previously the president of the American Association of State Climatologists, as well as American Meteorological Society’s program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology — in other words, he knows what he’s talking about. He tells National Review that “the Endangerment Finding from carbon dioxide is based upon a terribly flawed document on climate change in the United States. In my opinion, it is based upon the worst summary of climate research ever produced by federal researchers.”