Friday, December 22, 2006

Federal court strikes down Bush EPA smog rule; and shocking comments from an EPA science adviser

Today a federal appeals court struck down the Bush administration’s rules for making sure public health is protected from smog. The panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that some of EPA’s 2004 requirements were illegally weak. The ruling came in response to a suit filed by environmental groups, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and numerous state governments.

In its rule, EPA permitted many areas with smog problems to meet weaker cleanup requirements than other areas. In effect, the Bush administration was giving industry a break. It was an illogical way to deal with the problem of smog.

The court said this was also a legal no-no, and told the EPA to go back to the drawing board:

We therefore hold that the 2004 Rule violates the Act insofar as it subjects areas with eight-hour ozone in excess of 0.09 ppm to Subpart 1. We further hold that EPA’s interpretation of the Act in a manner to maximize its own discretion is unreasonable because the clear intent of Congress in enacting the 1990 Amendments was to the contrary.

At the same time, the court rejected other challenges to the rules brought by the state of Ohio and the oil industry.


Now for the comments by EPA science adviser Roger McClellan, long a chemical industry consultant. In an interview broadcast last night on CBS Evening News, McClellan contended that people who die early from breathing dirty air are not “real deaths.” (See transcript below.)

This is an utterly appalling comment. Is one death better than another?

It is little wonder that the Bush administration has McClellan on a “short list” to remain an EPA adviser. See page 14 at this link:

Perhaps McClellan is so far outside the scientific mainstream that he’s not an appropriate person to advise the federal government in these matters.

EVENING NEWS for December 21, 2006, CBS

KATIE COURIC: …Another serious health danger to Americans of every age is air pollution. Today, the Bush administration announced plans to seek tough new emission standards for diesel trains, but critics say the government is ignoring all the problems caused by soot that comes out of industrial smokestacks. They claim it kills thousands every year, and deadliest of all may be the pollution you can`t even see. Here`s Wyatt Andrews with part two of our series, "Foul Air."


WYATT ANDREWS, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: One day last July, this power plant smokestack rained black soot on the farms and homes of Shipping Port, Pennsylvania. The power company, First Energy, said it was a maintenance accident, and according to local residents, warned them not to eat anything dusted by the soot.

(on camera): Don`t eat the fruit off your own trees?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don`t eat it.

ANDREWS (voice-over): The accident, which had the power company power washing a town, was an unusually severe and visible example of what Americans breathe in much smaller amounts every day, and not just from power plants. Trucks, cars, and even fires produce microscopic soot particles and chemicals that can damage your lungs.

JANICE NOLEN, AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION: Particle pollution -- soot - - kills people.

ANDREWS: Janice Nolen is with the American Lung Association, one of many leading medical groups demanding that the Bush administration adopts stricter controls on microscopic soot. These groups cite overwhelming evidence linking microscopic particles to fatal diseases.
(on camera): Tens of thousands of people die every year?

NOLEN: Every year from soot-based heart attacks, cancer, strokes.

ANDREWS: Despite that evidence, when the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, had the chance to set a tough new annual emission standard for soot this year, the agency declined.
The EPA also declined our request to explain that decision on camera, but in a written statement said: "EPA`s air quality standards are the most health protective in U.S. history."

One scientist who agrees with the agency says none of the research cited by critics proves that tougher standards will save lives.

DR. ROGER MCCLELLAN, EPA SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD: They`re just stretching the scientific data, and I think that has been used excessively to try to scare the public into thinking these are real deaths.

ANDREWS: However, in a 20-2 vote last year, an independent committee of scientists advising the EPA said tighter annual control on microscopic soot would save lives. When EPA dismissed this, critics said the Bush administration was ignoring science to go easy on industry.

The power company in Shipping Port, meanwhile, is now telling residents it`s safe to eat vegetables if they`re washed. But remember, the black rain that fell that day was pollution you could see. On every other day, it`s what you can`t see that could kill you.

Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, Shipping Port, Pennsylvania.

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