WASHINGTON - July 19 - With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) soon to make a critical decision about deadly particle soot pollution, medical experts and air pollution research specialists today called on EPA and a Senate committee to ignore what they called "bad science."
Their call came as the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing ostensibly designed to assess the science behind the EPA's pending proposal to make a slight adjustment in current standards. EPA's career scientists and its outside science advisers both called for tougher standards than EPA has proposed.
"There is overwhelming scientific evidence that EPA should strengthen both its annual and short-term standards for particle pollution," noted George Thurston, Sc.D., associate professor of environmental medicine, New York University School of Medicine, who testified today before the Committee.
"This is the position endorsed by such medical and health groups as the American Medical Association, the American Nursing Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Thoracic Society, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and many other health groups," noted Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association, adding that "EPA's own evidence shows that thousands of Americans are dying prematurely."
Despite what Nolen called "a consensus in the medical community that EPA should set better standards," the Senate panel, chaired by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) today is showcasing testimony by several witnesses with polluter connections called to cast doubt on the need for tougher standards.
"This hearing is designed to apply political pressure to the EPA," noted Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. EPA is under a court order to issue a final decision by Sept. 27, and key decisions are likely to be made very soon. "It will highlight industry-paid science that seeks to raise doubts about the need to clean up this deadly pollution," O'Donnell added.
One witness, Anne Smith of CRA International, "is a hired gun for the dirty electric power industry," noted O'Donnell. Smith is a consultant for the Utility Air Regulatory Group, a coalition of electric power companies opposed to new pollution standards. "Smith has cooked up an industry-friendly theory that we don't need better standards. But her theory has been discredited by other scientists and really is just providing cover for her power industry clients, who want to spend as little as possible on pollution cleanup."
Another witness opposed to tougher standards, Roger McClellan, was a member of the EPA science advisory panel, but he was one of only two panelists -- out of 22 scientists -- who dissented from the call by the science advisers for tougher standards.
"In other words, McClellan is what scientists would call an outlier," noted O'Donnell. "His views are outside the scientific mainstream."
McClellan was president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology and now describes himself as "an advisor to public and private organizations on issues related to air quality."