Petition Asks OMB to Withdraw Figure on Social Cost of Carbon, Use Open Analysis

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By Andrew Childers  


Sept. 9 --Seven industry and business groups have petitioned the White House to withdraw its figure on the social cost of carbon and repeat its analysis through a publicly transparent process.

The White House Office of Management and Budget should refrain from using the newly revised social cost of carbon figure to evaluate the climate change impact of federal regulations until it has been vetted through an open and transparent process and any uncertainties in the modeling used have been discussed, the petition said.

The industry groups petitioned OMB under the Information Quality Act to correct both the 2010 and 2013 social cost of carbon estimates, calling the process to develop the figures “opaque.”

“OMB has not revealed the identity of the participants or any information from which to make an assessment as to the participants' expertise or their qualification to participate in a group tasked to estimate” the social cost of carbon, the petitioners said.

The Sept. 3 petition was signed by the America's Natural Gas Alliance, American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, Portland Cement Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

OMB could not be reached for comment.

A federal interagency working group in May increased the social cost of carbon figure that federal agencies will use to evaluate the climate change impact of their actions to $38 per metric ton at a 3 percent discount rate in 2007 dollars for the year 2015. That is up from the previous estimate of nearly $24 per ton that was issued in 2010.

The working group included representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation Department, Office of Management and Budget, Council of Economic Advisers, Council on Environmental Quality, and other federal agencies. The working group said the estimate was increased as a result of improvements in the models used (106 ECR, 6/3/13).

Modeling Assumptions Not Reviewed

Although the three models used to develop the social cost of carbon figure have been peer-reviewed, the industry groups said the federal working group has not disclosed the assumptions it used to guide its modeling or weight the various inputs.

“Other than for a few of the hundreds of variables that comprise the input data set for the three models used, the public has no idea of what the inputs are or how they were determined,” the petition said.

The three models produced a range of estimates for the economic and social impact of carbon dioxide emissions. The estimates varied from a low of $21 per ton to as a high as $71 per ton. The petitioners said the broad range produced emphasizes the need for the working group to publicly disclose the inputs used to derive the social cost of carbon figure and how each input was weighted.

“The [interagency working group] has failed to disclose and quantify key uncertainties and to fully inform decision makers and the public of those uncertainties as required by OMB,” the petition said.

During a July 18 hearing, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements examined the process used to develop the social cost of carbon figure. Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) and ranking Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) asked OMB to provide additional information about the process used to develop the estimate in an Aug. 20 letter (162 ECR, 8/21/13).


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