Monday, December 04, 2006

EPA about to take a dive for oil industry, downgrade science, politicize the process for setting of national clean air standards

We have learned that the U.S. EPA is about to announce a significant policy change regarding the way the agency sets national clean air standards.

The new approach will downgrade the role of EPA’s science advisers, who recently urged the agency to set tougher national clean air standards for soot and more recently for smog. Perhaps this is the ultimate Bush administration payback for the attempts by the science advisers to base clean air standards on science. (Which they are supposed to be).

EPA’s new approach will politicize the process for setting clean-air standards. It will boost the role of political appointees at the agency. (Yes, the same guys like Brian Mannix and Bill Werhum, who fought against significantly tougher clean-air standards for particle soot.)

This appears to be the first in a series of industry-friendly moves by the Bush EPA before the new Congress is installed.

The agency will adopt the strategy urged by the oil industry, which has sought for months to downgrade the influence of EPA’s science advisers as part of the industry strategy to prevent tougher clean-air requirements. Under this new approach, the science advisers will be permitted to comment on EPA “advanced notices” of proposed rules, just like anyone else. That’s a huge change from the status quo. Right now, the independent scientists have a far more active role as they interact frequently with EPA career scientists.

We are told the biggest advocate for this change is Brian Mannix, the ex-Mercatus Center alum who, coincidentally, is married to Susan Dudley, the Bush administration’s nominee as White House regulatory czarina. (The oil industry is among the polluters that pours money into Mercatus.)

Background on the change in agency direction can be found at the bottom half of this page: Last June, Clean Air Watch and the American Lung Association argued in a public meeting against the plan promoted by the oil industry.

The oil industry recommendation is contained on page 71-76 of this document:

EPA is also about to release a staff assessment regarding lead. The lead smelting industry is arguing in favor of eliminating the standard altogether.

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