A "Suppressed" EPA Report? Not Exactly

Congress is on recess this week for the July 4 holiday. But the quiet in Washington has only amplified a flap between some members of congress and administration officials over an allegedly "suppressed" report from the Environmental Protection Agency. The document, which hasn't been released in its entirety (an incomplete draft is here), supposes that global temperatures have actually decreased over the past decade, essentially undercutting the key cause of global warming. Al Carlin, the EPA employee who authored the report, has only fanned the flames. He appeared twice on Fox News (which has been covering the story regularly according to media watchdog Media Matters) to not-so-subtly suggest an EPA internal conspiracy fueled by the environmental movement. Sen. James Inhofe, the ardent climate-change denier from Oklahoma, immediately jumped on the story, seeing an opportunity to validate all those years he railed against the "faulty science" of global warming. Inhofe immediately called for a criminal investigation into the matter to hold the EPA accountable. (Sensing a slight overreaction, he later backpedaled, saying he wasn't qualified to call for criminal proceedings.)

Neither scientists nor administration officials are swayed much by Carlin's or Inhofe's claims. For one -- and the EPA is quick to point out -- Carlin isn't an environmental researcher, he's an economist. What's more, the report was entirely his idea to research and produce. EPA officials never asked him to do it, hence why they didn't give it top billing when he finished. "Claims that this individual's opinions were not considered or studied are entirely false,'' the EPA said in a statement. "The individual in question...was not part of the working group dealing with this issue.'' Climate scientists have also taken to a respected science blog to point out shaky scientific ground on which Carlin built his claims.

The whole episode shines more than a bit of light on the palpable tension in Washington over the climate debate, certain to escalate this summer as the Senate discusses the cap and trade bill the house passed last week. The bill, in its current state, would set a limit to carbon emissions and would auction off permits to pollute. But it'll be far from easy to pull through. Democrats will need to assemble at least 60 votes to overcome an almost-certain filibuster, meaning lots of brokering in the coming weeks. With all things up in the air, only one thing seems already clear: how Sen. Inhofe will be voting.