Monday, January 09, 2006

EPA lead science advisor vows to fight bad particle decision; EPA conspires with Ohio to cheat breathers, and more...

Those of us in DC are awaiting the return of Congress, as many lawmakers solemnly vow to “reform” corrupt lobbying practices (though one major lawmaker with control over air pollution policy, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, plans a big “Texas Hold’em event to rake in cards AND campaign checks – see at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/08/AR2006010801162.html)

Here are a few potentially interesting updates.

Fighting mad: The chair of EPA’s science advisory panel vows to fight the scientifically deficient proposal by the agency regarding national air quality standards for dangerous particle pollution. We believe that real science was contaminated by political science as EPA made that proposal right before the holidays. You will recall that EPA proposed something weaker than either its own scientists or the agency’s outside science advisors had recommended. And now the chair of EPA’s science advisory panel is vowing to fight that bad decision. In an interview with Science magazine, Rogene Henderson of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, declares “this isn’t over” and says the science panel will reiterate its case. Please let me know if you want a copy of the article.

Stuffing staff: In a related matter, the deputy head of the EPA is calling on the agency to review the entire process of setting national air quality standards. EPA Deputy Head Marcus Peacock has set up a work group to “conduct a top-to-bottom review” review of the process. To evaluate this December 15 memo (if you want this, please let me know), it is probably worth knowing that former Office of Management and Budget official Peacock is viewed by many inside the agency as a White House agent whose mission is to control those pesky bureaucrats who want to do something positive. Sure enough, this memo appears designed to keep EPA’s staff scientists – who called for tougher particle pollution standards than the agency actually proposed – from doing something like that again in the future. In other words, this could inject even more politics into what is supposed to be a scientific process. In an interesting display of plumage, Peacock’s memo also adopts an argument being made by the coal-burning electric power industry against tougher standards.

Bureaucratic bungles: Ugly politics is also playing a big role in an EPA decision to ignore the Clean Air Act and permit the state of Ohio to scrap its auto inspection program for the Cincinnati-Dayton area. As you may know, Ohio did this at the end of last year in violation of legal requirements which stipulate that states with smog problems can’t just dump pollution control programs they don’t like. It turns out now that the US EPA was in on the deal, which will mean more dirty air and health problems for breathers in Ohio. We’ve written to the EPA regional head in Chicago to protest “the unfortunate appearance of a federal agency that thinks it is above the law – an agency that only decides to enforce the law when it appears politically convenient. It is the sort of action that can further undermine public confidence in our national government.” The full letter is at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2006/01/clean-air-watch-to-epa-dont-act-as-if.html

SUV subterfuge: While many car companies are introducing new models – including some that are environmentally friendly – at this week’s big auto show in Detroit, the car companies are up to some of their dirty old political tricks. Last week the SUV, Pickup and Van Owners of America, launched a new attack on California standards aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The organization, which sometimes refers to itself as Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America, is actually a front group run by a D.C. pr firm that has also represented the auto industry and diesel technology industry. Given that so many states have adopted the California standards, you might want to be on the lookout for this front group in your community.

New Year’s resolution: What do planes, trains and boats have in common? That’s one of our resolutions to explore in the New Year.

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