I have always believed that one of the primary responsibilities of this committee is to ensure that regulatory decisions are based on the best available science. I want to commend Administrator Jackson for making scientific integrity and transparency essential components of EPA’s mission. She has eloquently expressed support for these principles in Agency memos, congressional testimony, and speeches. My hope, Administrator Jackson, is that you will transform these words into actions.
So what is EPA’s record so far? At this point, transparency and openness are not winning the day. For one, I was disappointed by the recent announcement that EPA is eliminating a policy to make the process of setting National Ambient Air Quality Standards more transparent.
I was also troubled to read about the secretive process behind the Administration’s recent proposal for new fuel economy standards. According to Energy and Environment Daily, Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, and Carol Browner, “quietly orchestrated private discussions from the White House with auto industry officials.” In an effort to conceal information used to develop the fuel economy proposal, Nichols said that she and Browner “put nothing in writing, ever.”
Now that doesn’t look like transparency and openness; it’s more like hide and seek. And this was the process on an issue of great importance. Instead of backroom dealings, EPA should be encouraging public participation at every step in the rulemaking process.
Of course, openness and transparency can mean many things. At a minimum, they should mean that EPA conducts policy analysis using the best available science, and that such analysis is clear, objective, and accessible so the public can understand it. Again, measured against this standard, I’m afraid EPA has missed the mark.
To cite just one example, in its economic analysis of the Waxman-Markey global warming bill, EPA assumes that carbon capture and storage technology will be commercially available by 2015. Considering the numerous unresolved issues surrounding CCS, including liability, siting, permitting, and the viability of the technology itself, this assumption seems farfetched.
Administrator Jackson, don’t get me wrong: I appreciate EPA’s analysis and the assistance it provides in crafting legislation. I would say, however, that EPA’s Waxman-Markey analysis is flawed in several important respects, including its assumptions, as I noted, about nuclear power, CCS, as well as the availability of offsets. It also fails to account for the impact of the bill’s overlapping mandates, and the regional disparities the bill will create.
In order to provide a more balanced assessment of the bill’s costs, some of my colleagues and I will be sending you a letter requesting that EPA conduct a new analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill that reflects more realistic assumptions on a range of issues. I hope that you will commit to me today that the Agency will rework its analysis and complete it by June 26.
In my view, conducting this new analysis is a necessary component of your pledge to make EPA more transparent. I look forward to working with you to make it a reality.