Senator James M. Inhofe, Chairman
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety
Oversight Hearing Regarding the Proposed Ozone and Particulate Matter Revised Standards
February 5, 1997

The hearing will come to order.

As the new chairman for the Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, I would like to welcome everyone to our first hearing of the 105th Congress. Today's hearing will look at the EPA's newly proposed Ozone and Particulate Matter standards. I want to impress upon everyone that we are here to make sure that Americans have clean air to breathe.

It is my intention to run this hearing in a balanced and thoughtful manner. The witnesses for this hearing, and this will hold for all future hearings, have been carefully selected to provide a complete spectrum of diverse viewpoints. In particular, we have invited the principle researchers the EPA relied upon in their proposal, as well as the chairman of the CASAC panel. Some of today's witnesses have already been criticized by environmental groups for their ties to industry, in particular Dr. Wolff the chairman of CASAC. I want to extend my apologies to Dr. Wolff for having his character impugned. want to make this very clear, he is not testifying today because of his employer, but because he is the appointed Chairman of the Administrator's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee.

The purpose of this hearing is to address the scientific questions behind the recent EPA proposals to change the national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. We are not here today to talk about cost/benefit issues or the impositions on lifestyle that these proposals may or may not impose. We will hold additional hearings in the future to discuss those important issues.

As the chairman of this Subcommittee, I selected the science issues to begin the oversight process because believe we owe it to the American public to help search for the facts and the truth behind the scientific claims. These are very difficult and complex scientific issues and they deserve this separate hearing, apart from other considerations, because of the importance science has in formulating and administering our nation's environmental laws and policies.

There are a number of questions about the science that have been raised since the EPA first published these proposals. It is my hope that today's hearing can begin to answer these questions, not only for myself and the Committee, but also for the American public.

In general:

1. There is considerable confusion as to what the EPA's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee recommended and what they did not recommend.

2. There are questions about which determinations, made by the Administrator, were based on science and which ones were based on policy judgments. While we are not going to question those policy judgments today, we need to identify which ones were based on science and which were not. Is the change from a one-hour standard to an eight-hour standard for ozone justified by the available science? I have heard very little disagreement there, but have heard disagreement concerning the specific threshold limit set, was this a science call or was it a policy judgment?

3. How complete is the scientific body of knowledge behind these proposals? If not, then is more time needed to conduct the appropriate studies and research?

4. With a scientific review of the standards required every five years, are we at a point today where we can say definitively that the science requires a change in the standards, or are there still too many uncertainties and unanswered questions?

While I applaud the Agency's desire to protect the health of the American public, we must be sure that our mutual goal will, in fact, become a reality if these proposed regulations go into effect. Too often, government officials, both elected and appointed, hide behind scientists when proposing policy decisions. Congress hides behind science when it tells agencies to promulgate regulations based upon the best available science, instead of making the difficult policy decisions themselves; and administrations also hide behind science by substituting scientific statements for policy findings.

We need to let scientists tell us what the science is, but as policy makers and lawmakers we need to take that science and determine what constitutes the best public policy decision.

Finally, I would also like to say that I am pleased that the Administrator has agreed to extend the comment period for these regulations by sixty days. These are the single largest environmental regulations ever proposed and they deserve a thoughtful review process. A thorough and complete review had been made more difficult with the timing of the proposals during the holiday season. The EPA needs to hear from all segments of the public, and this extension will allow those people and organizations with fewer resources to spend more time analyzing the proposals. This will particularly help the States and local governments understand the proposals, which is vital since they will be instrumental in the implementation of any new standard.