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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

EPA Smog Plan Compromises Public Health to Save Industry Money

EPA Chief Suggests Radical Change to Weaken Clean Air Act

(Washington, DC. March 12, 2008) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today assailed a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to ignore the agency’s science advisers in setting a new national health standard for smog.

“Once again, the Bush administration has chosen to disregard the advice of the EPA’s own independent science advisers,” who had unanimously recommended a tougher standard than that selected by the agency, said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. O’Donnell noted that the administration also rejected the advisers’ advice in 2006 regarding national standards for particle soot.

The EPA is supposed to set these standards based solely on science.

“Unfortunately, real science appears to have been tainted by political science,” O’Donnell added.

“The Bush Administration is compromising public health to save industry money,” he said.” EPA documents show that public health benefits would be far greater under tougher standards recommended by the science advisers.

At the same time, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson articulated what he called “principles” that would seek changes in the Clean Air Act to permit costs when setting national clean air standards – something the Supreme Court has ruled is illegal under the current law.

“This would be a radical attack on the Clean Air Act,” O’Donnell said. “It is taking a page directly from the playbook of polluters and their most ardent supporters in Congress, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) of Texas, who previously introduced legislation seeking such a change.

O’Donnell predicted this idea would be “dead on arrival” in Congress, though he added that “Johnson “quite obviously was considering costs in this smog decision. He interpreted the law the way he wishes it were.”

Smog, technically known as ozone, is the nation’s most widespread air pollutant. It can cause lung damage, trigger asthma attacks – even shorten someone’s life.

The national health standards were last revised in 1997. Since then, numerous studies have shown that the current standards need to be made tougher.

EPA’s science advisers had unanimously recommended that the current standard, 0.08 parts per million, be lowered to a level between 60 and 70 parts per billion. The agency’s Children’s Health Advisory Committee recommended a standard of 60.

But EPA announced today that the health-based standard would be made somewhat tougher, but only down to 75 parts per billion – a level that will require relatively few areas of the country to take additional smog cleanup steps beyond those already planned.