Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More on the sorry mess at EPA; ugly details of the ozone decision

The ugly details are in this memo, issued today by Rep. Henry Waxman, who continues to investigate Bush administration misdeeds and lies.

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20080520094002.pdf

Some of the emails here are pretty remarkable. http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1958

The Bush administration clearly acted illegally in this matter by secretly factoring costs into the decision. It continues to withhold numerous documents. And lie about its actions.

EPA wastes tax money; launches smear campaign against Henry Waxman

The mess at EPA gets worse and worse. First Steve Johnson takes a dive on the California waiver (and ozone) because he is a creature of the White House and apparently loves the frills of his office. Then he repeatedly lies to the media.

And now, his "Office of Public Liason" is distributing trash talk about Henry Waxman, who's doing a heck of a job investigating EPA misdeeds. (See below -- EPA's distribution of the hatchet-job editorial from yesterday's Wall Street Journal.)

This is deplorable. What an incredible waste of taxpayers' money. EPA has become so political under Bush and Johnson that it's acting like it is running a smear-tactic presidential campaign.
It is time for Johnson to do one decent thing -- and resign!


-----Original Message-----
From: Briggs.Bill@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Briggs.Bill@epamail.epa.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 9:42 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: EPA Office of Public Liaison Notice


In Case You Missed It...

Beverly Hillbully
May 19, 2008 - Wall Street Journal

In politics, not everything is at it seems. And there's no better
example than the case of the Congressman from Beverly Hills who is
crying "pollution" as a way to protect his own district's polluting
ways.

That politician is Henry Waxman, who is shouting at his usual 100
decibels that the Environmental Protection Agency hasn't imposed strict
enough standards on atmospheric ozone. Never mind that EPA Administrator
Stephen Johnson recently imposed the toughest standard in history at
0.075 parts per million. On Tuesday Mr. Waxman plans to assail Mr.
Johnson and White House regulatory czar Susan Dudley at a public
hanging, er, hearing for "interfering with sound science" on the ozone
rule.

Mr. Waxman purports to be upset because the EPA's science advisory board
had endorsed a standard between 0.06 and 0.07, down from the current
0.084. Many others, including government and industry officials from
around the country, had urged EPA to keep the current standard. Mr.
Johnson split the difference, explaining that virtually all of the
remaining human health risks from ozone could be eliminated at 0.075
parts per million.

This is a reasonable judgment given that ever-tighter ozone standards
cost a great deal to meet but yield ever-smaller gains in public health.
The big problem with the science board's recommendation is that nearly
90% of U.S. cities would have been in instant noncompliance. They would
then have had to limit vital economic activity – road building, factory
production – to meet the standard. And unemployment is bad for public
health too. The Congressman is also protesting that Ms. Dudley and
President Bush influenced the EPA's decision, as if the President
shouldn't control the executive branch.

As it happens, Mr. Waxman's own 30th California House district is
already in gross violation of even the 1997 Clinton Administration
standard of 0.084. This is part of the wealthy automobile mecca of Santa
Monica, Westwood and of course Beverly Hills. In fact, Southern
California is the only area in the country that has been designated by
the EPA to be in "extreme noncompliance" with the ozone standards, which
conveniently means it has been granted 20 years to clean up its act.

The odds are close to zero that Mr. Waxman's district could come
anywhere close to complying even with the new EPA standard, much less
the one the Congressman wants to impose on the entire country. According
to Joel Schwartz, a clean-air scientist with the American Enterprise
Institute, "even if Southern California abolished every automobile in
the metropolitan area, it couldn't meet these stricter rules." We'd love
to see how many of Mr. Waxman's constituents would give up the keys to
their Lexus convertibles and hop on a Los Angeles bus in exchange for a
minuscule improvement in air quality.

Ah, but here's the rest of the story: It is precisely this Los Angeles
pollution failure that is Mr. Waxman's real motivation for his anti-Bush
air pollution yapping. According to EPA records, the politicians who
lobbied most strenuously for the strictest ozone standards are from
cities and states with the dirtiest air. New York and California pols
were especially vocal. Meanwhile, the places that are generally meeting
clean air goals were more likely to request that the existing rules
continue.

What explains this paradox? States and cities like California that
haven't met the clean air guidelines have been losing factories and new
businesses to places that can. So one way for greens and their political
allies to create a "level playing field" is to make the clean air
standards so unachievable that virtually all U.S. cities can't comply.
It's a classic beggar-thy-neighbor political strategy.

And it punishes all of those cities that worked hard over the years to
reach attainment, most of them far less affluent than Mr. Waxman's tony
environs. That's the real story behind the phony ozone outrage he is
staging on Tuesday. The Congressman from Beverly Hills is all for
cleaning up the air – except in his own backyard.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121115921730002453.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Bill Briggs
Director
Office of Public Outreach
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
202.564.7729 office
202.412.8885 cell
briggs.bill@epa.gov

Monday, May 19, 2008

Waxman: we have evidence that White House called shots in California waiver

Here is the summary of the investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, including the results of depositions of key EPA employees.

It concludes that the White House tampered with the key decision involving rejection of California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.

It quotes a key EPA staffer who, in a deposition, testified that EPA chief Steve Johnson reversed himself and rejected the request after communicating with the White House.

This is an incredibly sordid story. Steve Johnson should come out and finally tell the truth about this situation. And he should resign for agreeing not only to be a White House pawn but for trying to deceive the public about what happened.

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20080519131253.pdf

Thursday, May 01, 2008

EPA dangles prospect of tougher lead standard, but hedges its bets

Like a Kentucky Derby contender that came up lame, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson was a late scratch at his own press conference today to discuss a proposed tougher standard for lead concentrations in the air.

As you may know, the lead standard hasn’t been updated since 1978. And we know now that virtually any level of lead in the air can get into the blood stream, leading to possible brain damage for children and other bad health effects. EPA is under a court order to issue a final new standard by September of this year.

EPA’s science advisers, ignored by Johnson on earlier decisions involving particle soot and ozone, took a strong stand in this case – not only calling for a tough new standard but faulting the process under which EPA conducted this review. (The process was changed by deputy EPA head Marcus Peacock, who was the primary speaker today.) See below for what the scientists recommended.

EPA put forward its own plan today.

Although at first glance this looks promising, EPA’s proposal has all the makings of a bait and switch.

The agency proposed a range of options, including both possibly tougher than and certainly weaker than what the scientists had unanimously recommended. The weaker end of the range would allow at least 50 percent more pollution than the scientists unanimously recommended. (The scientists said the UPPER limit should be 0.2, and did not specify a lower level; EPA today recommended a range of 0.1 to 0.3, though it said it would also take comment on both stronger and weaker alternatives).

Note there is a possible bit of statistical trickery here: EPA said in its fact sheet http://www.epa.gov/air/lead/pdfs/20080501_factsheet.pdf
that it might continue the current practice of determining compliance by averaging concentrations on a three-month basis. The science advisers called for compliance to be averaged on a tougher monthly basis. I don’t know offhand how the lower end of EPA’s proposed range compares to the scientists’ plan if the compliance averaging is different. EPA did not mention this in its press call.

You may recall that EPA also proposed a range in its recent ozone standard, only to abandon the tougher end of the spectrum and adopt the weakest part of the recommended range. If past is prologue, EPA may do the same thing here.

We remain concerned that once again the Bush administration may ignore science in a major decision involving public health.

**

Here’s what EPA’s science advisers recommended (in a January 22, 2008 letter) : The Committee unanimously and fully supports Agency staff’s scientific analyses in recommending the need to substantially lower the level of the primary (public-health based) Lead NAAQS, to an upper bound of no higher than 0.2 μg/m3 with a monthly averaging time. The CASAC is also unanimous in its recommendation that the secondary (public-welfare based) standard for lead needs to be substantially lowered to a level at least as low as the recommended primary NAAQS for Lead. However, the CASAC finds the ANPR for the Lead NAAQS to be both completely unsuitable and inadequate as a basis for rulemaking, in that it does not provide the underlying scientific justification for the range of options for standard-setting that the Agency is currently considering.


One final note: There seem to be irregularities in the process here: the White House web site makes no mention of OMB review of this plan, even though there is an EPA memo in the docket complaining about OMB-convened meetings that appear to have delayed this proposal.

Air America -- or No Lung Left Behind

What can we learn from the American Lung Association's new "State of the Air" report?

See our thoughts here: http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/no-lung-left-behind