Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Biggest EPA decision of the year goes to the White House

The countdown has begun to “S-Day” – the day the US EPA officially decides what level of particle soot in the air is safe to breathe.

Under a court order, the EPA must decide this issue by September 27. And the EPA “package” (as the bureaucrats call it) has now gone to the White House. See at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoViewRule?ruleID=265359 -- now under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

This is the most important air pollution decision the EPA will make this year. It will guide all particle soot cleanup requirements – for power plants, diesel trucks – and even cars – well into the future.

And EPA basically has a choice: science, or politics. Dozens of health and medical groups, including the American Medical Association, have called on EPA to make the existing standards much tougher, based on recent science which, simply put, shows that breathing particle soot can kill you or send you to the hospital – even at levels that are considered legal today. But industry groups, led by electric power companies, have lobbied strenuously against new standards that would require significant new reductions in both annual and daily exposure to particle soot.

Folks around the power industry lobby water coolers are said to be sporting mighty big grins. Perhaps because they have some inside word about the decision, or perhaps because they simply recall that in other instances – involving mercury, global warming and even the air pollution effects of 9-11 in Manhattan – this EPA has shorted good science in favor of political science.

To put this issue in some perspective, the American Lung Association is releasing a new report tomorrow. It will attempt to point out the human toll of particle soot at alternative pollution levels.

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