DRIESSEN: Clean-air rules and junk science at the Environmental Protection Agency

EPA adds up the benefits while ignoring the costs

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing regulations at a record pace. Its new Tier 3 rule slashes allowable sulfur content in gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10 ppm.

“These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment and a win for our pocketbooks,” insists EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. She claims the new rule will bring $7 billion to $19 billion in annual health benefits by 2030.

The EPA, Sierra Club and American Lung Association also say the rules will reduce asthma in children. However, asthma incidences have been increasing, while air pollution has declined — skewering the pollution-asthma connection.

The disease is actually caused by allergies, a failure to expose young children to sufficient allergens to cause their immune systems to build resistance to airborne allergens, and lack of sufficient exercise to keep lungs robust, medical experts believe.

The alleged benefits are dubious, at best. Whatever their ultimate cost, the gasoline rules will reduce monthly ozone levels by just 1.2 parts per billion during rush hour, says Environ International. That’s equivalent to 12 cents out of $100 million or 1.2 seconds out of 32,000 years. Their contribution to improved human health will be essentially zero.

In reality, these and other EPA rules are pummeling America’s economy, living standards, health and welfare through secretive, deceptive and even fraudulent agency practices.

The EPA paid the American Lung Association $20 million between 2001 and 2010. The agency funnels millions to environmentalist pressure groups — and even to “independent” EPA scientific review panels.

Fifteen of the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) member organizations received $180.8 million in EPA grants since 2000, columnist Ron Arnold recently reported in The Washington Examiner. Seven CASAC executive committee members pocketed $80.2 million; one received $51.7 million.

When businesses engage in such tactics, they are prosecuted for illegal kickbacks, even when relatively few citizens are affected. When government agencies, universities and “public interest” groups do it, they are applauded, though nearly every American business and family is affected.

Moreover, the Clean Air Act, Information Quality Act and other laws require that agencies assess both the benefits and costs of proposed regulations.

However, the EPA routinely violates these rules, inflates the alleged benefits of its rules, and minimizes or ignores their adverse impacts on our economy and human health. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and the pressure groups typically rubber-stamp EPA pollution claims, studies and regulatory actions, while ignoring the costs and the shoddy science behind them.

During a recent House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, CASAC members said they weren’t even aware that they are obligated to advise on both benefits and costs.

“As far as I know,” former EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Jeff Holmstead testified, “CASAC never fulfilled this requirement” as it relates to any rules.

Former advisory committee chairman Roger McClellan told Mr. Smith he did not think the panel “ever advised EPA to take account of the role of socioeconomic factors, unemployment or other risk factors” adversely affecting people’s health. Another former member testified that the advisory committee was not even “allowed to discuss any of the adverse consequences” associated with new rule-makings.

In one example, the EPA and its allies claimed new pollution standards for coal-fired power plants will bring major health benefits. However, the mercury risks were hugely overblown, and the proclaimed dangers from fine particulates were contradicted by EPA’s own illegal experiments on human test subjects.

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