If there was one consensus reached in last week's hearing on the science behind these proposed regulations, it's that there is no consensus. Dr. George Wolff, the current chairman of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), stated that the court- ordered deadline did not allow enough time for members of the panel to adequately examine this complex issue. Dr. Morton Lippmann, Professor of Environmental Medicine at New York University Medical Center and, former CASAC chairman, also stated that more time is needed to conduct additional research. At one point, both scientists were bickering back and forth about what "was" and what "was not" agreed to by the panel of scientists.
In the Clinton Administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 1998, the EPA is seeking $26.4 million for -- and I am quoting here -- "research to reduce the great uncertainly about PM's health effects." If we are not absolutely sure about which particles we should be regulating, should we really be seeking to impose new standards? Is there a rush to judgment? The request goes on to state that EPA "will launch research into three areas: (1) evaluating the relationship between the health effects and PM exposures; (2) determining the amount and size of particles inhaled and retained in the lungs; and (3) investigating biological mechanisms by which PM concentrations in outdoor air may induce health effects and, in doing so, evaluating potential links between PM exposures and health effects." I think this clearly demonstrates the EPA's need for more time and scientific research to study this controversial issue.
This is not about new standards for backyard cookouts or gas powered lawnmowers. Instead, it's about possibly implementing a standard based on inexact science and inconclusive evidence. If we can effectively end health risks for people and children we should do it. But we shouldn't step off this cliff merely because we hope and theorize that these new standards will offer us the results we want.
CASAC stated that "our understanding of the health effects for ozone is far from complete." The members also documented that "there was no scientific consensus on the level, averaging time, or form of a PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS)." With all of this ambiguity, and a lack of scientific data -- which was documented by the experts who testified last week -- it seems that EPA's decision to set new standards for PM and ozone was a judgment call, not a result of sound scientific evidence.
Mr. Chairman, it is paramount that principles of sound science are being applied. As we all know, this is a very technical issue and we need to be confident that the choices we are making will get to the heart of protecting public health. I am concerned, however, that we are about to go down a regulatory road before we truly know which pollutants are causing health effects.
No one is rejecting the notion that we need to continue to look for ways to improve and protect public health. However, that concept needs to be balanced with the best available, peer-reviewed science. It ends up building support for whatever measures we take because folks will have the confidence that the sacrifices they are making are really worth something.
Mr. Chairman, we all want to protect public health and the environment. Folks in Wyoming enjoy clean air and take pride in living in a state where current NAAQS are being met. However, if these proposed regulations are implemented, Wyoming could get caught up in a major sweep and be required to implement standards that may actually yield few health benefits. Again, I compliment the Chairman for. holding this hearing and look forward to hearing from our two witnesses.