EPA releases new soot pollution standard based on secret data sets

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday a new standard to reduce soot pollution, ignoring Republican objections that the new standard is based on scientific processes and data which were not made available to the public.

Republicans on the House science committee sent a letter on Thursday to top Obama administration officials, including the EPA’s chief administrator, Lisa Jackson, expressing their concerns that the new soot rule was rushed to comply with a court order, and relied heavily on non-transparent data.

Republicans also called on the administration to make the secret data sets publicly available, as well as to make sure future regulatory decisions are based on publicly available available information.

“As you know, Members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee have repeatedly requested release of the scientific data that EPA uses to justify alleged benefits of this rule (as well as the majority of EPA’s Clean Air Act benefit claims for non- PM2.5 rules),” reads the letter.

The committee’s letter also said that “it is essential that EPA and the White House make the underlying data linking PM2.5 and mortality publicly available in a manner sufficient for analysis by independent scientists and researchers. This is especially important as EPA is subjecting taxpayers that funded this research to its costly regulatory consequences, without ever allowing public review or scrutiny of the information.”

According to the committee, for more than one year, the Obama administration has denied requests from committee members to make the relevant data sets available.

“Multiple senior Obama Administration officials have promised to ensure release of this data, but have yet to fulfill such commitments, raising further questions regarding the seriousness of the President’s repeated statements that he is operating ‘the most open and transparent Administration in history,’” the letter continues.

The requested data sets are the sole basis for 85 percent of the EPA’s claim of $2 trillion worth of Clean Air Act benefits between 1990 and 2020. Also, the EPA’s assertion that benefits of CAA regulations exceed the costs by a 30-to-1 ratio originates from the secret data sets.

“Put succinctly, it is likely that a majority of the benefits claimed from all federal regulations are grounded in data sets that have never been made available to the public,” the letter reads.

The new EPA national air quality standards reduce pollution from soot by 20 percent and force local governments across the U.S. to improve air quality standards in the next decade.

The rule limits soot, or fine particulate matter that comes from activities like burning wood and diesel vehicles.

The agency estimates that the health benefits from the new rule will range from $4 billion to $9 billion per year and will cost between $53 million and $350 million.

According to the EPA, 99 percent of U.S. counties will meet the the new standard by 2020 without taking any additional action.

“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

“EPA has ignored repeated expressions of concern by industry, including the Chamber, that the agency must not rush to issue this rule,” Bill Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, said in a statement.

“Despite EPA’s acknowledgment that the complexity of the rule required a year-long review, EPA took less than six months to finalize the rule,” he added. “EPA engaged in result-oriented rulemaking to justify the most restrictive air quality standards ever issued.”

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