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November 17, 2011

MD lawmaker questions EPA air-quality science

Maryland's attorney general may be pushing for tighter federal air pollution regulations (see previous post), but freshman Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md, is pushing back.

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)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 11:10 AM | | Comments (8)


I wonder how many allies Rep. Harris and Rep. Broun have among the medical profession who make their livings treating cancers and other diseases linked to environmental hazards. The philosophy of not controlling pollution until we know for sure the exact cause and effect is sure to increase business for those high paid specialties, at the cost of all our health and sense of well being.

Andy sure loves working for that mining industry money. Go to one of his town halls and he sings the praises of coal like it's the goose that lays the golden egg.

These two are physicians? If the evidence exists that the polluntants can kill people, will these two guys give up their medical licenses? Will the AMA censure them? When the medical community denies science, it's time to do something about it

I love how politicians, who are good for nothing at best, assume they know more about scientific matters than scientists. Harris needs to shut up and listen to the people who actually know what they're talking about, instead of trying to make environmental protection policy more profitable for his monied constituents.

Typical republicans - Gambling with the health of the general population to appease the big money interests that finance their campaigns.

When I moved here in 2006 from a clean air state (wind swept plains with little industry at the time), I could smell a noticeable foul chemical smell in the air. But, of course, now having lived here for a number of years, I don't notice it. But it's there.
I also noticed that my home here actually gets dirty from particle pollution in the air. White window sills are dark grey in a years time.
Also, most mercury pollution in our bodies comes from coal fired plants dumping mercury in air pollution into lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean. Enjoy your catch and your crabs!
Maryland's urban and suburban areas have horrible polluted air!

What is wrong with Andy Harris?

The two Representatives also recommend that the EPA reduce the value of lives saved by the regulations (a value used in the cost-benefit analyses used to help justify regulations) for the elderly in the poor. In other words, they would have weaker regulatory safeguards for the poor and senior citizens. See paragraphs 3 and 4 on page 8 of the letter. Also, see this blog: How's that for compassionate conservatism?

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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