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The 4 Most Frustrating Moments From Thursday’s EPA Hearing

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"The 4 Most Frustrating Moments From Thursday’s EPA Hearing"

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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

From climate denial to bullying to just being plain off-topic, today’s House Science Committee on the Environmental Protection Agency’s transparency and accountability was one to watch — if only for a bit of theater.

The hearing, titled “Strengthening Transparency and Accountability within the Environmental Protection Agency,” was supposed to “review science and technology activities” at the EPA, according to the hearing’s charter. Specifically, the charter said that the hearing would address “problems with science at EPA, including a lack of uniformity of the peer-review process, not evaluating impacts of regulations and a lack of transparency.”

But McCarthy was mostly unable to get a word in edgewise. Time for each speaker was limited, and McCarthy was confined to providing only basic answers to the Republicans’ extensive questions. The tactic made for a frustrating hearing. Here are the most frustrating moments.

Do You Think We’ve Had Ice Ages Before?

It comes as no surprise that Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) does not believe in human-caused climate change. In 2011, he signed a letter requesting to scrap NASA’s world-leading climate science research funding, saying the money should be allocated back to human spaceflight.

On Thursday, he began his questioning of McCarthy by asking her how many ice ages there have been on the planet throughout the history of time. McCarthy responded that she did not know; Posey said he didn’t know either. He then asked: “Do you think we’ve had ice ages before?”

McCarthy: I’m quite sure of reading about those, but I’m not a scientist and I don’t want to pretend to be for you sir. But we can get our scientists to respond if you want a more direct response.

Posey: Yeah, I really would like that. You know normally, you can’t have seamless ice ages – you must have a warming period between the ice ages. And I was just wondering if you happened to know what the temperature here was on earth between the last two ice ages?

McCarthy: I’m sorry sir, I can’t answer those questions.

Posey then went on to ask McCarthy if she would be surprised to learn that the earth was 30 degrees warmer before the last ice age. McCarthy said it would not influence her belief in modern science.

Posey: But don’t you think the history of the earth sheds some bearing on science?

McCarthy: I’m sure that it does. I just don’t want to pretend I’m a scientist and have that discussion with you sir because I’m not. I do listen to the scientists and listen to the consensus that’s being drawn.

Posey: Well I listen to scientists too, and I don’t claim to be a scientist but I don’t want to put my head in the sand and ignore science that’s inconvenient.

Posey then asked whether carbon emissions had affected previous global warming between ice ages. McCarthy responded that she was “not either comfortable or qualified” to respond.

Will The EPA Be Regulating Cow Farts?

After expressing concerns over pending regulations on wood heaters (He asked: “If Americans like the wood stove they have, can they keep it? Period?”) Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) took his last 30 seconds to ask a rather strange question. Will the EPA be cracking down on cow farts?

McCarthy quickly shot down the idea. “Not that I’m aware of,” she said.

Massie: Ok, good. Because we’ve heard that on farms. Are you aware of that at the USDA?

McCarthy: Pardon me? You’ve heard it what?

Massie: That the methane emissions from cattle. Can you assure us today…

McCarthy: I am not looking at that.

“You Would Make A Very Good Senator If You Would Like To Filibuster”

Arguably one of the most frustrating things about Thursday’s hearing was the resounding decision among Republican representatives to largely not let McCarthy give testimony beyond a “yes” or “no” answer. The tactic resulted in a lot of tense moments — the most cringe-worthy coming from Rep. Jim Sesenbrenner (R-WI).

After grilling her on auto industry concerns over whether the new high octane ethanol fuel, E15, would destroy automobile engines, McCarthy said the agency had done extensive testing on the fuel and believed it was appropriate. This exchange followed:

Sensenbrenner: Well, that’s not what the manufacturers say. That’s not what the AAA says. They don’t make cars, they represent motorist’s interests. That’s not even what the Coast Guard said, because we’re dealing with small engines including marine engines, lawnmowers, snowmobiles…

McCarthy: Congressman, we never indicated…

Sensenbrenner: Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am, I’m going to ask you a question. I have a limited amount of time. You would make a very good senator if you would like to filibuster.

Rep. Sensenbrenner was not the only member of the committee to accuse McCarthy of trying to answer their questions. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) launched an attack on McCarthy for saying at a previous hearing that the EPA was not “in the business of creating jobs,” and demanded she apologize for her cruel statement. He then lambasted her for not supporting hydraulic fracturing despite there not being “a single case of groundwater contamination,” and asked whether she could cite one documented case.

McCarthy: I would like to explain it a little bit if…

Hall: I’m not asking you for an explanation, I’m asking you for a yes or no.

McCarthy: I do not know of a documented case…

Hall: I’ll take that as you do not know or you don’t care. Because you didn’t know and you didn’t care about people having jobs back then, that was a terrible statement.

McCarthy: Actually that was taken out of context.

Hall: It was not taken out of context I read it exactly as it was and you know that, why don’t you admit it.

McCarthy: Well it was actually celebrating the fact that we have been successful in reducing environmental pollution…

Hall: Now don’t filibuster me, let me go on.

Did You Sign Up For Obamacare?

Instead of letting McCarthy finish her response to his question on whether the EPA was conducting unethical human testing on the health effects of particulate matter, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) decided to use his last minute of questioning on a left-field question: Is McCarthy signed up for Obamacare?

McCarthy: No I am not.

Broun: Why not?

McCarthy: Well because I’m lucky enough as a federal government [employee] that I have health care available to me which I’ve signed up for. In a few years, when that’s not the case, I’ll be happy to have other available health care opportunities…

Broun: Well the president says health care opportunities is much better than forcing most federal employees into Obamacare and obviously if you are not signing up you don’t think it is. Mr. Chairman I’ve run out of time, I yield back.

The whole hearing can be watched here.

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