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[greenyes] Bush and Junk Science

Critics Say E.P.A. Won't Analyze Some Clean Air Proposals

WASHINGTON, July 13 - In the last several months, the Environmental
Protection Agency has delayed or refused to do analysis on proposals that
conflict with the president's air pollution agenda, say members of Congress,
their aides, environmental advocates and agency employees.
Agency employees say they have been told either not to analyze or not to
release information about mercury, carbon dioxide and other air pollutants.
This has prompted inquiries and complaints from environmental groups, as
well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
"It's totally unacceptable," said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of
Connecticut. "This is an administration that lets its politics and ideology
overwhelm and stifle scientific fact."
Mr. Lieberman said the agency refused to analyze legislation that he and
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, sponsored to limit emissions of
carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas implicated in global warming.
Lisa Harrington, a spokeswoman for the agency, said, "These decisions were
not motivated in any way by politics."
The agency routinely assesses important proposals for environmental laws and
regulations, using computer modeling to predict their environmental and
economic consequences and to calculate their risks and benefits. The results
are often used to bolster or attack policy positions.
The question is whether the agency is deciding which analyses to release
based on which side the studies favor in environmental debates.
"Whether or not analysis is released is based on at least two factors," said
William D. Ruckelshaus, who was the first agency administrator under Nixon.
"Is the analysis flawed? That is a legitimate reason for not releasing it.
But if you don't like the outcome that might result from the analysis, that
is not a legitimate reason."
Take the case of mercury. It is a leading pollutant from coal-burning power
plants, but it has never been controlled under the Clean Air Act.
Because mercury lasts a long time in the environment and can harm people and
animals, the agency is under a court order to propose regulations by the end
of this year and to put them in force within five years.
The agency had set an interim deadline of Aug. 1 to have proposals ready for
review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Typically, such
regulations require many rounds of modeling to compare costs and benefits.
A dozen staff members met with Jeffrey Holmstead, the assistant
administrator for air programs, on March 27 to explain the options they
planned to assess. Employees at the meeting set Mr. Holmstead said he had to
consult the White House before they proceeded. Four days later, a meeting at
which the staff members were to present results of their modeling to outside
advisers was canceled. It has not been rescheduled.
Mr. Holmstead said he decided to postpone the modeling because the agency
was not sure if some of the proposed regulations would be legal under the
Clean Air Act. He said that even without the modeling, "we are on track" to
produce regulations.
The administration has proposed its own standards for mercury emissions in
draft legislation to update the Clean Air Act, a bill that it calls Clear
Skies. Environmental groups and members of Congress say those regulations
could be weaker than the ones being considered by the environmental agency.
Recently 138 representatives, including 13 Republicans, sent a letter to the
president urging him not to weaken the mercury proposal.
On another environmental front, Christie Whitman, then administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency, sent a letter in June to Senators McCain
and Lieberman, refusing to do economic analysis on their bill to limit
carbon dioxide emissions.
"I am disappointed that the E.P.A. declined to review the bill and do not
feel it was normal procedure to refuse to analyze a bill that is under the
agency's jurisdiction," Senator McCain said.
Mrs. Whitman, who has since resigned, wrote the senators that the Energy
Department's statistical office, the Energy Information Agency, was already
conducting an analysis and "based on past analyses, I would expect that
E.I.A.'s cost estimates should not be significantly different from the
estimates that E.P.A. would have produced."
The energy agency and the Environmental Protection Agency did do models on
legislation to clean up power plants proposed by Senator James M. Jeffords,
independent of Vermont; Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine; and
Senator Lieberman. In that case, the two models differed significantly; the
energy agency showed a greater decline in use of coal.
This is in part because the energy agency typically uses a more conservative
model, experts said.
"It's not thought of as a model that captures the flexibility in the
economy," said Vicki Arroyo, director of policy analysis at the Pew Center
for Climate Change, one of the outside groups that the energy agency asked
to review its analysis of the McCain-Lieberman proposal.
Mr. Lieberman said that the environmental agency's decision not to conduct
an analysis "was an intervention from above that closed down an effective
scientific inquiry for political and ideological reasons."
Staff members at the agency said it did compare the administration's
environmental plan with one sponsored by Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat
of Delaware, and Senator Lincoln Chaffee, Republican of Rhode Island. But
the agency released only a raw data print-out of its findings. A summarized
report, which indicated that the Carper-Chaffee proposal had some
advantages, was not released.
At a meeting on May 2, employees who attended it said, Mr. Holmstead of the
E.P.A. wondered out loud, "How can we justify Clear Skies if this gets out?"
When asked if he made that comment, Mr. Holmstead said he did not "recall
making any specific remarks."
Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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