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Policy: Environment & Energy

EPA's shredding system makes bad news about climate regulations disappear

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Opinion,Ron Arnold,Columnists,EPA,Energy and Environment,Magazine

Federal law mandates an independent scientific review of the possible effects -- both good and bad -- of proposed environmental regulations before decisionmakers act. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't do that.

The scofflaw EPA routinely and systematically kills any hint of bad effects from its rulemaking that might appear in its scientific reviews.

That despicable tampering with the truth has duped the American public into believing that environmental regulations have only good effects and positive net costs and deliberately blinded us to the enormous evils we suffer because of EPA’s self-serving malice.

The EPA's outrageous meddling has come to light as it prepares the most expensive regulation in history, harsh new ozone rules, with the agency's own cost estimates at more than $90 billion per year.

The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee is meeting through Thursday in Chapel Hill, N.C., to debate its scientific and policy assessments of the proposed new ozone rule. Unfolding evidence says that this panel should be disbanded and EPA forced to obey the law and tell the whole truth before making any new rules.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House science, Space and Technology Committee, uncovered the inner workings of EPA's bad-news shredding system in testimony from members of the EPA's own committee.

Dr. Roger McClellan, the former chairman of the clean air panel, stated, "I am not aware that CASAC has ever advised EPA to take account of the role of socioeconomic factors, unemployment or other risk factors influencing the health endpoints under consideration.”

EPA’s bad-news shredder works with two slashing blades: keeping CASAC members in the dark and making them dependent lapdogs through massive EPA grants.

Former EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Jeff Holmstead testified: "It appears that, until recently, most CASAC members were not aware that they have a statutory obligation to advise the head of EPA on certain issues [bad effects of regulation]. ... As far as I know, CASAC had never fulfilled this requirement as it relates to the ozone standard or any other.”

Former CASAC member Dr. Robert Phalen revealed EPA’s repressive censorship, testifying that "CASAC was not allowed to discuss any of the adverse consequences associated with setting new standards" and that "the subcommittee that I was on did not adequately inform the Administrator on the pitfalls, the scientific limitations, and even the adverse health consequences that would flow from a more stringent regulation.”

Not one CASAC member had the guts to stand up and say to the EPA, “You go to hell, I’m telling the truth anyway.”

That’s understandable: A voting majority of them are on the EPA payroll. Fifteen of the 20 CASAC ozone review panelists received $180.8 million in EPA grants (see table). The largest, $51.7 million, went to Ed Avol of the University of Southern California; the lowest, $102,000, went to Michelle Bell of Yale University. The seven members of the panel’s executive committee took $80.2 million of the total.

Any claim that the 15 grant recipients on this panel have “complete independence” from the EPA — as federal law requires — when their careers have depended on EPA grants of such magnitude is a disgusting farce.

The EPA does not permit any industry representative to serve on its Science Advisory Board. Even friends of industry are discriminated against: Individuals owning industrial shares are often disqualified from serving for conflict of interest. Some industry-funded scientists have had to divest their retirement funds in order to serve. The regulated have no voice in their own fate. But academic panelmember Avol can take $51.7 million from the EPA and be honored for not having a conflict of interest.

The EPA is thoroughly, hopelessly rotten to the core.

Smith is determined to fix this broken agency. He sent a March 19 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing his concerns. That same day, he sent CASAC ozone panel chair Christopher Frey five questions to answer about compliance with the law, asking for a March 25 reply (which didn't come).

But Smith sent a more important letter, this one to the Comptroller General of the United States, asking the Government Accountability Office to examine four specific problems with EPA's compliance with the law.

The mandated independent scientific review can only be saved by limiting EPA grant recipients on panels to a substantial voting minority, adding an equal number of industry scientists with an equal number of independent consultants. The reporting of possible bad effects of a proposed rule must be placed in the first section of all future science reviews.

The power to hurt the citizenry seems to be some kind of noble right in the minds of EPA bureaucrats. The citizenry has been known to actively resent such things.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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Ron Arnold

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The Washington Examiner