The “Discovery” of the EPA Inquiry

One of the essential elements in Mann’s reliance on EPA findings is his assertion that his supposed exoneration by EPA had been “widely available and commented” on in the media and had been “read by the Defendants”:

All of the above reports and publications were widely available and commented upon in the national and international media. All were read by the Defendants.

The claim that all nine “inquiry” reports had been “read” by Steyn and the other defendants is surely a fantasy on the part of Mann and his lawyers. While Steyn seems to be a man of eclectic interests, somehow I can’t picture him poring through the dreck of the turgid “reports” from the various inquiries.

I am particularly dubious of Mann’s claim that Steyn (and Simberg) had read the EPA documents. Some climate blogs took notice of the EPA decision denying various petitions for reconsideration of the EPA Endangerment Finding when it was issued, but none understood it to supposedly be an “investigation” and “exoneration” of Michael Mann, something which would have occasioned great interest in July 2010, then only a few weeks after the Muir Russell and second Penn State reports. The EPA denial decision was first included in a list of inquiries in an unmarked Feb 2011 revision of a November 2009 post by SKS, but really was brought to public attention for the first time in Mann’s Statement of Claim itself. It seems very improbable to me that Steyn (or Simberg) were aware of EPA’s supposed findings in connection in Mann (not that Mann’s characterization is accurate, but that’s a story for another day), or why they would be obligated to be familiar with them. Given Mann’s allegation that Steyn, Simberg and others were supposed to be aware of EPA’s investigation and “exoneration” of Mann, the contemporary unawareness of this supposed EPA investigation – especially at SKS and Real Climate – is really quite remarkable.

The Decision Denying Petitions for Reconsideration of the EPA Endangerment Finding

The draft EPA Endangerment Finding was issued in April 2009, within a few months of the new administration. The final Endangerment Finding was issued in December 2009, a few weeks after Climategate, and attracted very little commentary on climate blogs, then still astonished by the Climategate emails.

In February 2010 (60 days after the Endangerment Finding), ten petitions for reconsideration of the Endangerment Finding were filed, including one in which CEI was a party. In the EPA Endangerment Finding, the EPA had been very wary of relying on Mann’s work or even recent paleoclimate. It showed a spaghetti graph (from the NAS 2006 report) that did not include the MBH98-99 hockey stick and placed caveats on recent paleoclimate. EPA’s guardedness was noted in one petition (Peabody Energy) who nonetheless argued that EPA was obliged to consider the controversies of MBH98-99, an invitation that EPA evaded as much as possible.

Blog Reaction to the EPA Decision

On July 29, 2010, the EPA announced the decision denying reconsideration of the various petitions. Given the centrality of this decision in Mann’s pleadings, it is remarkable that climate blogs (including Real Climate) were completely unaware that the EPA was reporting on an “investigation” and “exoneration” of Michael Mann, a topic then of considerable interest (Muir Russell and the second stage of Penn State had just reported and were widely commented on.) Climate blogs were aware that the EPA had referred to the “inquiries”, but not that EPA purported to be reporting on its own “investigation”.

Anthony Watts reported on the EPA decision here. Anthony quoted from Administrator Lisa Jackson’s statement, which referred to “clean energy”, “green jobs”, “oil addiction” and “national security”, all important issues, but ones that are not relevant to the investigation of academic misconduct. Indeed, the use of such language raises questions about the impartiality of EPA in their investigation.

“Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy. A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security,” she added

Anthony observed that EPA had referred to the “inquiries” (Muir Russell, Oxburgh, UK Parliamentary Committee and Penn State) being known to readers, but there is no evidence that Anthony had any inkling that EPA purported to have done its own “investigation” of Mann’s conduct:

Jackson claimed that the scientists had been cleared of wrongdoing by multiple whitewashes investigations.

At Climate Audit, I wrote a two line notice of the EPA decision, a denial that, needless to say, had been expected. I noted that EPA had referred to the “inquiries”, but was unaware that the EPA report could itself be construed as the report of an “inquiry”:

The EPA, as expected, has denied the various petitions for reconsideration of their Endangerment Finding. They refer to the various “inquiries” on some points. Interesting reading here

Joe Romm published an article endorsing the EPA decision a couple of days later, but likewise did not seem aware that the document contained a report on an “investigation” and “exoneration” of Michael Mann, whose name was not mentioned.

But most tellingly, Real Climate itself did not report the news that EPA had “investigated” and “exonerated” Michael Mann. The EPA report did not attract a headpost, but was mentioned in several comments in a thread about Andrew Montford’s then recently published book. Of much more interest to blog commenters at the time was the astonishing news from Gavin Schmidt that, after months of Schmidt denying that the Tiljander sediments impacted the Mann et al 2008 reconstructions, Schmidt finally admitted that the contaminated Korttajarvi sediments did impact Mann’s vaunted no-dendro reconstruction. Schmidt’s admission did not impact the EPA documents which cited Mann’s nodendro reconstruction on several occasions as a supposed refutation of the divergence problem and hide-the-decline (adding to the interest in whether Schmidt was a reviewer of the EPA documents.)

In September 2010, Ross McKitrick wrote a thorough review of the Climategate inquiries, cited at WUWT on Sep 15 here: McKitrick reviewed the Muir Russell, Oxburgh, Parliamentary Committee and Penn State inquiries, but was unaware of the EPA and UK Department of Energy and Climate Change reports as relating to investigation of Michael Mann or other Climategaters. In the same month, Andrew Montford also published a report for the GWPF entitled The Climategate Inquiries, considering the same list as McKitrick and likewise being unaware of the supposed EPA “investigation”.

1_herrcookAs the first anniversary of Climategate approached, Stephen Lewandowsky and his proteges at SKS were pondering methods of “re-framing” Climategate so that attention was drawn away from the offputting spectacle of climate scientists deleting data to hide the decline and destroying documents to evade FOI requests.

On November 17, 2010, Stephen Lewandowsky puffed that there had been “six vindications”:

Not one, not two, but six vindications. This comes as no surprise to anyone with passing familiarity of the distinction between private chat and public actions.

But Lewandowsky’s list of six did not include EPA: in addition to the three known UK inquiries, it counted the two Penn State stages as separate investigations and added a previously unknown report by UK Department of Energy and Climate Change to the list.

The first inclusion of the EPA inquiry on the SKS list appears to have occurred in January 2011 as an an unmarked revision of the SKS webpage – it is mentioned in a January 2011 version in here , but absent in the preceding archive from December 2010. The SKS description of the EPA inquiry consisted of a short quote from the EPA Press Release as follows:

In July 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency investigated the emails and “found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets.”

As an editorial note, this language does not occur in the EPA denial decision itself or in any of the supporting volumes: it appears to be spin from the EPA press office and appears to owe more to Real Climate than the formal EPA documents.

Between early 2011 and July 2012, SKS added two more inquiries to their list, bringing their total to nine by July 2012, when it was consulted by Mann’s lawyers.

Mann’s Lawyer Copy SKS, August 2012
In July 2012, Simberg published his blogpost on Mann and the Penn State inquiry, noted up soon afterwards by Steyn. Following criticism of Simberg’s Sandusky image, CEI removed two “inappropriate” sentences from its blogpost. Nonetheless, on August 21, 2012, Mann’s lawyers sent a letter to CEI saying that the “damage from the original post…has already been done” and that they intended to “pursue all appropriate legal remedies”.

In their letter, Mann’s lawyers copied SKS’ list and descriptions of the nine inquiries almost verbatim (though neither SKS nor John Mashey, to my knowledge, have accused Mann’s lawyers of plagiarism. For example, Mann’s only slightly revised description of the EPA inquiry was as follows:

In July 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency investigated the [certain] emails [that supposedly formed the basis of the allegations against Dr Mann] and “found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets.”

Mann’s Statement of Claim, October 2012
For eight of the nine inquiries, Mann’s Statement of Claim in October 2012 (and Reply Memorandum of January 2013) stuck more or less to the SKS script. For their description of the Muir Russell inquiry, Mann’s lawyers even used the same fake quotation that SKS had used.

However, for the EPA, Mann’s lawyers departed from the SKS script, though one may question the “value added”. Whereas the EPA “inquiry” had been unknown to Montford, McKitrick and Lewandowsky in their lists of Climategate inquiries and only one of nine in the SKS list, it was promoted to a pre-eminent status in the pantheon of inquiries in the Mann Statement of Claim – it was the Zeus of inquiries, so to speak. The Statement of Claim included an extended quotation from the EPA (taken from the Myths versus Facts webpage, rather than the decision documents), while, for seven of nine inquiries, no quotation whatever had been provided. Oddly, the “money quote” selected by Mann’s lawyers was a declaration by the EPA press office that allegations that “temperature data and trends had been manipulated” was a “myth”, a declaration that seems oddly irrelevant to Mann’s actual research, which concerned proxy reconstructions rather than “temperature data”, except for the fact that Mann’s lawyers had previously misrepresented Mann’s research as being about temperature data, even declaring that Mann had been “one of the first” to “document” the increase in observed temperatures in the 20th century. The complete except is given below:

22. Notably, in July 2010, CEI, a defendant in this case, and others, filed a request entitled Petitions to Reconsider the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. In response, the Environmental Protection Agency published a summary of its findings, entitled “Myths vs. Facts: Denial of Petitions for Reconsideration of the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act,” which stated:

Myth: The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails prove that temperature data and trends were manipulated.

Fact: Not true. Petitioners say that emails disclosed from CRU provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate data. The media coverage after the emails were released was based on email statements quoted out of context and on unsubstantiated theories of conspiracy. The CRU emails do not show either that the science is flawed or that the scientific process has been compromised. EPA carefully reviewed the CRU emails and found no indication of improper data manipulation or misrepresentation of results.

Myth: The jury is still out on climate change and CRU emails undermine the credibility of climate change science overall.

Fact: Climate change is real and it is happening now. The U. S. Global Change Research Program, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have each independently concluded that warming of the climate system in recent decades is “unequivocal.” This conclusion is not drawn from any one source of data but is based on multiple lines of evidence, including three worldwide temperature datasets showing nearly identical warming trends as well as numerous other independent indicators of global warming (e. g., rising sea levels, shrinking Arctic sea ice). Some people have “cherry- picked” a limited selection of CRU email statements to draw broad, unsubstantiated conclusions about the validity of all climate science.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Decision Document, Denial of Petitions for Reconsideration of Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act” (July 29, 2010). Available at

Later, in the segue from background to discussion of the disputed blog articles (paragraph 25), Mann again relied uniquely on the EPA investigation that:

“CEI’s claims of data manipulation were labeled a “myth” by the EPA in 2010”.

Both CEI and National Review appear to have puzzled, to say the least, at the relevance of the declaration by Mann’s lawyers that their clients should have been cowed by EPA’s press kit statement about “temperature data and trends” and did not discuss the EPA inquiry in their initial memoranda of December 2012. Their lack of interest in this seemingly irrelevant EPA declaration caused Mann’s lawyers to go ballistic in their Reply Memorandum of January 2013, but that is a story for another day.

In general, it seems doubtful to me that Steyn (or Simberg) read “all” nine reports from the various “inquiries”. Indeed, it seems entirely possible that they hadn’t read any of them. It seems particularly questionable that Steyn (and/or Simberg) read the EPA denial decision together with its three volumes of supporting documents. Indeed, it seems entirely possible to me that neither Steyn nor Simberg were aware from contemporary reporting of the EPA denial decision that EPA had supposedly “investigated” and “exonerated” Michael Mann, given that no such claims had been made at the time at any climate blogs (including Real Climate) and that none of the contemporary reviews of the Climategate inquiries knew of or discussed the supposed investigation by EPA.

Postscript: Subsequent to the announcement of the EPA denial decision on July 29, 2010, I touched on the EPA decision in two posts. On October 4, 2011, I noted with amusement that EPA had conceded to the Office of the Inspector General that the peer review procedures for the Endangerment Finding and key assessment reports relied on in the Endangerment Finding had not complied with Office of Management and Budget policies for peer review of “highly influential scientific assessments” – a topic that had been raised in many of the petitions. EPA defended themselves by claiming that the Endangerment Policy had not been a “highly influential scientific assessment” and that they therefore did not need to comply with OMB policies. Given the far-reaching consequences of the Endangerment Decision, EPA’s argument seems laughable, both at the time and in retrospect.

In November 2011, I wrote a post discussing EPA’s citation and reliance on the no-dendro reconstruction of Mann et al 2008 (upside down Tiljander). In that post, I quoted from and linked to the supporting volumes of the denial decision. I don’t recall what prompted me to consider the EPA report in that particular context. By that time, I was aware that the EPA documents discussed many paleoclimate controversies and many emails, but I certainly didn’t consider them to have carried out an independent, non-partisan investigation, as opposed to recapitulating Real Climate talking points. In respect to the Mann et al 2008 no dendro reconstruction, their reliance was, to say the least ironic, as almost concurrently with the announcement of the EPA decision, Gavin Schmidt, after months of arguing the contrary, had disclosed that Mann’s no-dendro reconstruction was impacted by upside-down and contaminated Tiljander after all. Schmidt then had a hissy fit and said that the topic didn’t matter.

Climate Audit

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