Thursday, December 07, 2006

Details on EPA's industry-friendly changes to the process for setting clean air standards

Here is the link to the memo EPA put out today:

Key excerpts:

*Policy Assessment/Rulemaking : Following the ISA and the Risk/Exposure Assessment, the Agency will develop a policy assessment that reflects the Agency's
views, consistent with EPA's practice in other rulemakings . This document, in conjunction with the ISA and the Risk/Exposure Assessment, will replace the Staff
Paper. Moreover, the policy assessment should identify conceptual evidence- and risk-based approaches for reaching policy judgments, discuss what the science and
risk/exposure assessments say about the adequacy of the current standards, and present any preliminary risk/exposure information associated with alternative
standards . This policy assessment should also describe a range of options for standard setting, in terms of indicators, averaging times, form, and ranges of levels
for any alternative standards, along with a description of the alternative underlying interpretations of the scientific evidence and risk/exposure information that might
support such alternative standards and that could be considered by the Administrator in making NAAQS decisions. Such an assessment should help to "bridge the gap"
between the Agency's scientific assessment and the judgments required of the Administrator in determining whether it is appropriate to retain or revise the standards .
This policy assessment should be published in the Federal Register as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), with supporting documents placed in the
rulemaking record as appropriate. The use of an ANPR will provide an opportunity for both CASAC and the public to evaluate the policy options under consideration
and offer detailed comments and recommendations to inform the development of a proposed rule. Issuance of a proposed and final rule will complete the rulemaking

Quick translation of this gobbledygook: EPA is downgrading the role of its own career experts and making sure that political appointees are running the show from the beginning. EPA is discarding the important “staff paper” (which has been written by agency career staffers) and replacing it with the “policy assessment.” As Bush political appointee William Wehrum said during today’s teleconference, this policy assessment will “reflect management’s views.”

This move will also downgrade the status of EPA’s independent science advisers. Instead of having the unique role of critiquing the “staff paper,” as they have in the past, the scientists will be allowed to comment on the “policy assessment” on an equal footing with industry lobbies. It is little wonder that the oil industry pushed for exactly this sort of “reform” to the process.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to make sure that EPA’s career experts don’t embarrass the politically appointed head of EPA again, as they did in the case of the fine-particle soot standards.

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