Hearings - Statement
 
Statement of George V. Voinovich
Hearing: Full Committee
The Science and Risk Assessment Behind the EPA’s Proposed Revisions to the Particulate Matter Air Quality Standards
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mr. Chairman, after our hearing in the Subcommittee, I appreciate this important issue being elevated to the full committee.

 

To sum up last week’s hearing, we do not know the impact of revising the particulate matter standards. Let’s review what we do know:

· We know that the air is significantly cleaner and that EPA has proposed to move the goalposts on states as they implement the current standards.

· We believe that the Agency is underestimating the number of nonattainment counties and that federal clean air rules will only mitigate this problem.

· We know that the current nonattainment designations threaten highway funding and jobs and increase energy prices and that revised standards would exacerbate the situation.

· We also know that this decision has a profound impact on the health and well-being of many – as National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford stated: “…the biggest health risk to African Americans anywhere…is poverty.”

Today’s hearing focuses on the science and risk assessment behind the proposed standards. I will make three points.

First, according to the recent proposal and risk assessment, we will hear today that EPA’s estimate of the risk from exposure to fine particulate matter has declined from the level of risk estimated in setting the 1997 standards.

Second, the health benefits of EPA’s proposal are not fully understood. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report made 34 recommendations to improve our understanding of the estimation of the public health benefits. According to the Government Accountability Office report that Chairman Inhofe and I requested, EPA has fully implemented less than 25 percent of them.

For example, the NAS along with the Office of Management and Budget and EPA’s Inspector General has urged the Agency not to assume that all fine particle constituents have the same potency. As stated by the IG: “Otherwise, some facilities may install unneeded controls, while some needed controls may go uninstalled; ultimately, compliance may be further delayed and more costly.”

Unfortunately, EPA has largely not implemented the recommendations. The standards should not be revised until we have adequate information that tells us with greater certainty the health benefits and whether we are targeting the most harmful constituents of particulate matter – especially considering the negative impacts on our economy. Air quality will continue to improve through implementation of the current standards and the federal clean air rules.

EPA claims that they will address more of the NAS recommendations when the final rule is issued. At this time, we are told that there will also be a more complete Regulatory Impact Analysis and new science will be considered. It is unacceptable for the public and this Committee to get critical information only after the final decision has already been made.

Third, testimony that we will hear today indicates that EPA selectively used study results in developing the proposal.

In conclusion, it is important that everyone understand that science can only take us so far, but ultimately, it is a policy decision whether or not to change a standard. That is why the Clean Air Act states that air quality standards are to be set “in the judgment of the Administrator.” Given this judgment discretion, how can EPA revise the particulate matter standards when the public health benefit is not fully understood?

Mr. Chairman, I again thank you for holding this hearing and look forward to hearing from the witnesses. Thank you.

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