Good morning. Today’s hearing will focus on science and how it is used in environmental regulatory decisions. I have always believed that one of the primary responsibilities of this committee is to ensure that regulatory decisions are based on sound science.
Too often the environmental policy decisions made by EPA and other science-based agencies are driven by political or personal agendas. You see this in types of research that gets funded or the types of grants that get awarded. It is my hope that this hearing will help shed some light on how science is used by policy-makers and that we can arrive at some concrete suggestions for making the process better.
I believe that there are some success stories that need to be discussed here today. Generally speaking, addressing lead exposure is one of the great American success stories. According to data from the CDC and others, the median concentration of lead in the blood of children 5 years old and under has declined 89% since the period of 1976-1980, to 1.6 micrograms per deciliter in 2003-2004.
Another example is EPA’s recent changes to the Integrated Risk Information System. These changes allow the public to be involved in the risk assessment process sooner. Now, environmental groups, scientists, and the regulated community can provide data, research, and comments on risk assessments before they are finalized. Additionally, there is now a concerted outreach effort to members of the scientific community and more rigorous peer review. I understand that there are those on this committee who believe this is somehow stifling EPA scientists or putting politics into the scientific process. But I don’t understand how someone can stand up and say they support public right-to-know, scientific community participation, and transparency when the Agency makes regulatory decisions but not support those very same principles when it comes to risk assessment. More science means better decisions—more defensible decisions.
Today’s hearing will also address case studies of the importance of science in regulatory decision-making, with a focus on clean air issues and children’s health. However, in the rush to try and dissect these individual cases and lay blame on whether science was adhered to properly or not, the bigger picture message gets lost. Our air is cleaner than it ever has been before; the levels of the six criteria pollutants are continuing to decline, air toxics monitoring is expanding and reductions in benzene, acid rain, and haze are contributing to significant improvements in air quality and environmental health. However, despite these improvements, in the last 2 years, EPA has significantly strengthened or proposed to strengthen 3 of the 6 criteria pollutants, all driven by citizen suits and court ordered deadlines, and the agency once again has been attacked by stakeholders on both sides for doing so. Reduction levels are now being debated so intensely and at such marginal levels that one must stop and consider if there ever will be a level requisite to protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety that will satisfy the critics. Instead, we are left with a brand new web of economic burdens that we are passing on to the states, many of which are just now beginning to make real improvements from the previous strengthening. What we have are more environmental regulations hindering environmental progress.
I am pleased to recognize Dr. McClellan, a past Chair of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, who has detailed the many flaws and questionable approaches taken in justification of the recent final ozone rule, as well as the 2006 PM rule and others. I look forward to his comments on how the science panel often no longer offers its judgment of the scientific integrity of the process, but its policy opinions.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses this morning.