It seems self-evident, but I believe that it is a point worth emphasizing -- All of us here today, Republican and Democrat alike, are committed to protecting our environment, our air, our water and our natural resources. This is not, and should not be a partisan issue.
No one wants to see children suffer from asthma or miss school because of pollution in the air. No one wants to see tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely because of air pollution. So, should we have the most stringent air quality standards necessary to protect to public health? Of course.
But, in Administrator Browner's own words, our air quality standards must be based on "the very best science to do what is necessary to protect public health in common-sense, cost-effective ways." That is a goal that we certainly all share.
After reviewing EPA's proposed standards, however, I am concerned that we don't yet have "the very best science" to ensure that the standards will address the real health risks, if any, that may be posed by ozone and very fine particulate matter. It is troubling that only two of the ten members of the independent scientific review committee, CASAC supported EPA's proposed standard for ozone. It is equally troubling when the CASAC panel also could not reach a consensus on what standard would be appropriate for PM2.5 because there were "many unanswered questions and uncertainties regarding the issue of causality."
And yet, EPA appears prepared to proceed to finalize new standards on an expedited schedule, not because it has the "very best science," or clear evidence of significant health benefits to be gained, but because of a lawsuit and a court-ordered deadline.
At the very least, it seems that EPA's action is premature. While I recognize that under the current law, EPA is required to set air quality standards at a level that will ensure public health protection with an adequate margin of safety, without regard to cost, the record here suggests that EPA does not have the scientific information that is necessary to ensure that its standards will, in fact, ensure public health protection. For example, CASAC's review of EPA's proposed standard for PM2.5 demonstrates that we need better science on very fine particulate matter and specifically which small particulates cause health problems. Without better scientific knowledge, we could find ourselves in the position of forcing communities and businesses to spend hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars without ever addressing the real health threats. Similarly, CASAC's failure to support EPA's proposed ozone standard suggests that the scientific basis for lowering the ozone standard is at best questionable.
These new standards, if finalized, will impose substantial new costs and burdens on states and local governments, communities, small and large businesses, and even individual citizens. Before the Agency rushes to finalize any new standards, I believe that it must address concerns that have been raised regarding whether there is sufficient science to proceed with these rulemakings at this point, or whether further studies are needed to ensure that the goals of the Clean Air Act are met.
I would hope that EPA will also reevaluate the economic impacts of its proposed standards under both the Unfunded Mandates Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. While the Clean Air Act requires standards to be set without regard to cost, it does not prohibit EPA from identifying and assessing the real-life impacts of a proposed regulation. Both the Unfunded Mandates Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act are based on the principle that the public has a right to know, and a regulating agency should know, the costs of regulation, even when those costs are not specifically factored into the regulation itself. EPA should undertake an analysis of those costs under the Unfunded Mandates law; after all, that's just good, responsible government.
I look forward to hearing Administrator Browner's testimony this morning and I hope that she will address these issues .