Boxer Opening Statement: "Oversight Hearing on Science and Environmental Regulatory Decisions"
May 7, 2008

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Today, we will discuss the scientific integrity of the decisions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush Administration.

EPA was created by President Nixon as an independent agency, designed to protect families, children, and our natural environment from harm.

Unfortunately, what we will hear today is that the Bush Administration is discarding the best available science, and instead is seeking the advice of special interests that would benefit from weak environmental standards.

A clear pattern has emerged at EPA. When it comes to who wins and who loses, time and time again, the polluting special interests come out on top, at the expense of the health of the American people.

They are forcing politics into the entire scientific process, from the very beginning of the EPA's supposedly independent system for assessing health and environmental risks.

EPA has a special children's health advisory committee, because children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of pollution. This important scientific advice has been repeatedly ignored by the agency.

For example, the agency refused to follow that Committee's proposals to better protect children from smog pollution, toxic fine soot pollution, lead contamination in air, and perchlorate contamination of tap water-all of which are especially dangerous to children.

We must carefully scrutinize this unfortunate pattern, because it has dangerous implications for children and families, and cannot be allowed to continue.

Let me recount just a few more examples of this Administration's rejection of scientific advice.

There were early signs of a willingness to put politics before public health. Soon after President Bush took office, he suspended the Clinton drinking water standard for arsenic, which was supported by strong evidence from the National Academy of Sciences.

Also early in the Bush Administration, we learned that White House officials were deleting and editing scientific material in EPA reports on global warming.
More recently - on the eve of a hearing in this Committee on the public health threats posed by global warming -- the White House deleted page after page of scientific findings from testimony that was about to be delivered by the head of the Centers for Disease Control. And they have refused to provide the documents related to this incident requested by this Committee.

EPA Administrator Johnson also recently ignored his own technical staff's advice to grant California a waiver under the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles, affecting up to 19 states. This advice was based on scientific information about the health and environmental threats posed by global warming. In its place, the Administration echoed requests from the automobile industry in its final decision document.

We also see this problem in EPA's clean air program. After 30 years of closely working with its independent clean air scientific advisors, in the last few years EPA has repeatedly ignored its Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, or CASAC.

For example, over 80 million people live in areas with unhealthy levels of toxic soot pollution, which can damage the heart and lungs and cause premature death. In 2006, CASAC urged EPA to strengthen the annual standard for toxic fine soot. Instead, the EPA Administrator ignored the scientific recommendations and left that standard unchanged. The scientific advisors found that "there is clear and convincing evidence that significant adverse human-health effects occur" under the standard.

EPA's recent action on ozone or smog was similar. Over 90 million people live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution -- which damages the lungs and can lead to premature death. Again, EPA ignored its scientific advisors' unanimous recommendation to set the level as low as 60 but no higher than 70 parts per billion of ozone. EPA set the standard at 75 parts per billion, ignoring the scientists.

The Government Accountability Office testified before this Committee last week on EPA's new policy for developing the risk assessments used to set safe levels of exposure to toxic chemicals. GAO found that the policy increases delays, undercuts EPA's scientific credibility by keeping interagency comments secret, and gives the White House and polluting agencies like DOD a privileged seat at the table when scientific decisions are being made about toxic chemicals.

And just in the last few days, a senior EPA appointee, Mary Gade, told the Chicago Tribune she was forced to resign for aggressively pursuing the cleanup of a dioxin-contaminated site in Michigan.

The Bush EPA is failing to meet its mandate to protect public health as an independent, science-driven institution. The American people are paying the price with their health. This is an unacceptable pattern, and it must be reversed.

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