Statement of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for the Committee Record
Regarding the Senate EPW Committee Hearing on EPA Rollbacks, February 6, 2007
Senator Boxer, Senator Inhofe, our oversight responsibilities of the Environmental Protection Agency are of great importance to Americans all across the country and that’s why today’s hearing is so significant. It has been far too long since this Committee exerted its oversight role and I applaud the Chairman for holding this hearing.
As Vermont is on the receiving end of much of the Nation’s air pollution, Vermonters are very concerned about the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets clean air standards. In December of 2006, EPA announced that it intended to change the way that health-based air quality standards are set, reversing its long-standing process. Until that announcement, the EPA had counted on scientific advice from recognized experts prior to reaching policy recommendations or decisions. Now, the process will be reversed in an “Alice in Wonderland first-the-verdict, then-the-trial” manner that has been roundly condemned by the legitimate scientific community. Under the new policy, high-level political appointees will become involved early on in the process to determine what the “policy-relevant science” will be so the political point of view is represented. This is as if EPA is saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts – my mind is made up.”
This change in policy is particularly galling in that is comes after EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson overruled the advice of his scientists regarding the standards for fine particulates, which is the fine soot or particles that can get past human protective mechanisms and lodge deep in the lungs. The scientific advisory members have said that the EPA “twisted” or “misrepresented” the recommendations of the scientists. It seems as if this recent change in policy is a pay-back for those scientists who dare to challenge the political appointees.
It is my hope that the Congress will not allow this outrageous approach to continue. Unfortunately, the scenario I describe regarding air quality standards is only one example of a number of rollbacks that the EPA has recently pursued. I will work with all members of this Committee to ensure that we get the EPA back on track, for if we don’t reverse its course, the health of our citizens will be at risk.