MD lawmaker questions EPA air-quality science
Harris, chairman of the House Science committee's energy and environment subcommittee, and Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga, who heads the investigations and oversight subcommittee are challenging the scientific as well as the economic justification for new air-quality limits the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing. New rules are due by mid-December requiring tighter controls on mercury and toxic pollution emissions from power plants, which have drawn fire from the coal and utility industries, among others. The White House, at OMB's behest, postponed recently a move by EPA to tighten limits on ozone pollution, or smog, but others are still pending.
In a letter to the head of the Obama Administration's Office of Management and Budget, Harris and Broun - both physicians - accuse EPA's leadership of "press release science" in overstating the benefits and low-balling the costs of new air pollution regulations. They ask OMB head Cass Sunstein to take a critical look at the basis for EPA's air quality regulations and demand the underlying data behind studies linking soot pollution with premature deaths.
The pair contend EPA's leaders have been making "baseless and irresponsible statements" about how many lives could be saved by tightening limits on fine particle pollution, cross-state pollution and ozone pollution.
“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,” Harris and Broun wrote.
Harris and Broun contend EPA is ignoring the negative health effects of regulations, which they say could increase joblessness because businesses would have to spend money on complying with them rather than hiring new workers. They also question why EPA calculates the same ecnomic benefit for every premature death prevented, noting that most of those who die from inhaling soot are elderly.
To read the letter, go here.
(Rep. Andy Harris speaking at town hall meeting in Elkton, April 2011 Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)