If At First You Don’t Secede … Sue The EPA: Texas Guv Uses Climate-Gate Emails To Take On Feds

February 18, 2010 6:41 a.m.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is suing the Environmental Protection Agency in a bid to stop it from regulating global warming pollution. The centerpiece of his argument? Those leaked “Climate-Gate” emails.

Last year, the governor — who faces a contested GOP primary race, which includes a Tea-Party-backed candidate who has lately caught fire — raised the threat of seceding from the union. And on Tuesday, he opened a new front in his quest to tout his conservative bona fides.Flanked by his attorney general, Greg Abbott, Perry declared at a press conference that the lawsuit was intended to “defend Texas’ environmental successes against federal overreach.” And he slammed the Obama administration for “using sweeping mandates and draconian punishments to force a square peg of their vision into the round whole of reality.”

Abbott cited the emails to charge that the EPA was using “tainted data” when it ruled in December that heat-trapping gases are a threat to human health and can be regulated by the federal government.

The leaked emails caused a storm on Fox News and right-wing blogs last fall, but did not shift the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is a threat. Nonetheless, a “Petition for Review,” submitted to the EPA in the name of Perry and other Texas officials and examined by TPMmuckraker, uses what it calls the “disturbing revelations” contained in the emails as the centerpiece of its argument, claiming that the leaked emails have “shocked and appalled policy makers, regulators, scientists, and concerned citizens worldwide.”

In its “Overview” section, the petition argues that in making its ruling, EPA relied on the conclusions of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That body is generally seen as one of the most authoritative sources of information we have on climate change — but Perry et al. charge that “troubling revelations about the conduct, objectivity, reliability, and propriety of the IPCC’s processes, assessments, and contributors” have lately appeared.

What revelations are those?

Previously private email exchanges among top IPCC climatologists reveal an entrenched group of activists focused less on reaching an objective scientific conclusion than on achieving their desired outcome. These scientists worked to prevent contravening studies from being published, colluded to hide research flaws, and collaborated to obstruct the public’s legal right to public information under open records laws.

The petition goes on to reproduce many of the emails, including the two that received the most media attention last fall: the one in which a scientist refers to a “trick” to “hide the decline” in temperatures, and another in which the same scientist pledges that he and a colleague will keep papers skeptical of climate change out of scientific journals, “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” (For a good explanation of why the first email shows nothing nefarious, and why the second, though perhaps improper, doesn’t come close to undermining the consensus behind climate change, go here.)

Since the leaked emails appeared, the petition goes on to allege, “there has been a parade of controversies as new examples of improprieties and erroneous information are revealed to the public.” As one of several examples, it cites a recent admission by an IPCC official that the group erred in predicting that a Himalayan glacier would melt by 2035, as well as other efforts to challenge IPCC findings. And it accuses the group’s chair of having a conflict of interest because he has business ties to companies “in industries that are or will be affected by policies that are based on IPCC conclusions about climate change.”

This isn’t the first legal challenge to the EPA’s ability to regulate global warming pollution. Last week, an alliance of conservative business groups led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks filed a similar suit, which also referred to the “Climate-Gate” emails.

Perry is currently locked in a heated GOP primary battle for re-election. He enjoys a healthy lead over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), but the race has lately been shaken up by Debra Medina, a far-right darling of the Tea Party movement, who has taken off in recent polls.

Late Update: The state of Virginia has filed a similar legal action, also based in part on the Climate-Gate emails.

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