EPA using ‘press release science’ to justify regulations, congressmen say

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency has used bogus “press release science” to defend analyses of how Clean Air Act regulations affect the public’s health while downplaying their economic costs, two congressmen declared Tuesday.

In an unusually lengthy 11-page letter, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris and Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun presented White House regulatory administrator Cass Sunstein with over half a dozen examples of administration officials using scientific figures that they said “test credibility.”

Sunstein heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a division of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Harris and Broun, members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology — and both chairmen of subcommittees — asked Sunstein to respond to their concerns that the agency is using junk science to support regulations.

“In many cases, these required cost-benefit analyses appear designed to provide political cover for a more stringent regulatory agenda rather than objectively inform policy decisions,” the congressmen wrote.

The letter cites EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s claim before the House energy committee in September that “if we could reduce particulate matter to healthy levels, it would have the same impact as finding a cure for cancer” as “baseless and unsupported by science.”

Jackson’s statement implied that reducing fine particulate matter — pollution found in smoke and haze, usually from forest fires, power plants and automobiles — would prevent approximately 600,000 deaths per year, about 20 percent of all U.S. deaths. The letter noted the EPA’s own data showing that fine particulate matter levels had actually fallen nearly 30 percent in the last 20 years.

Harris and Broun also blasted EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy’s September 15 statement before the science committee that the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would prevent “up to 34,000 premature deaths a year.”

“Ms. McCarthy could not explain the cause of these premature deaths, did not account for any uncertainty in this and other statements, and has subsequently failed to provide the underlying data behind such claims,” the congressmen wrote.

The Clean Air Act, first passed in 1970 and updated in 1990, gives the agency permission to regulate U.S. air pollution, but most regulations must be backed up by scientific analyses known as Regulatory Impact Analyses. These analyses, Harris and Broun charge, are hardly scientific at all.

The pair claim the agency used a counting trick to claim that fine particulate matter caused more than 300,000 deaths in 2005, up from 80,000 before the calculating measure was used.

Harris and Broun also accused the EPA of understating costs of regulatory compliance, ignoring health benefits, failing to analyze and communicate uncertainties in their data, and lacking transparency.

They have requested a written response from Sunstein by December 6.

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