Statement of the Honorable Jeff B. Sessions

February 12, 1997
Hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's
proposed changes to the Ozone and Particulate Matter

I would like to thank Senator Chafee for holding this hearing today to discuss the EPA's proposed changes to the Ozone and Particulate matter standards. I would also like to thank EPA administrator Carol Browner for appearing before this committee and to express my commendation to all who have done so much to identify and help solve air pollution problems. In partnership with cities, states and industry, we have seen the national levels of both ozone and particulate matter decrease significantly in recent years.

We hear many arguments on both sides of the issue concerning the increased health benefits, or lack thereof, for families and children. As a father of three, I want to find an answer to this health problem and support those parents and dedicated health professionals who are working for the cleanest possible air. However, the recent hearing held before the Clean Air subcommittee with a panel of scientists who advise the EPA, raise questions as to whether the proposed new standards for ozone and particulate matter will be the best way to better health.

Testimony from that hearing showed that the proposed new ozone standard will have only a minimal impact on the number of hospital admissions, leaving the bulk of those who suffer still looking for an answer.

Testimony from that hearing also illustrated a lack of scientific data to support proposed changes to the particulate matter standards.

In addition, dialogue from that hearing served to demonstrate the disagreement within the scientific community regarding changes to those standards, relative to the health merits such a change might bring. One study on particulate matter conducted by Dr. Joel Schwartz of Harvard University, in Birmingham, Alabama, showed that an increase in PM concentrations adversely affected health and caused increased premature death among those who were elderly or had serious health problems. However, a study by Davis and Jackson, of the National Institute of Statistical Science, using the same data, noted that when you added one more factor, humidity -- the causality between mortality and increased levels of particulate matter became "statistically insignificant" -- casting serious doubt as to whether or not particulate matter or some other factor may have been at play.

Certainly, there appears to be no clear consensus from the scientific community regarding the benefits of imposing these standards. Dr. Morton Lippmann, former chairman, and the current chairman of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Dr. George Wolff, both expressed serious disagreement over the science used as the basis for establishing new standards for particulate matter and ozone. One issue they did seem to agree upon however, was the need for the scientific community to have more time to collect and analyze data, and to weigh the health benefits such changes may or may not bring. Further, Dr. Schwartz, who testified in favor of the new standards, flatly stated that the EPA "lags behind" in the scientific analysis of this issue.

The EPA is currently working under a court order to complete its review of particulate matter standards. As the former Attorney General for the State of Alabama, I have witnessed many instances when groups have filed lawsuits and used court orders a tool to help push through their agenda. It is important to note that the court order does not require the EPA to consider ozone standards but only to review the current standard for particulate matter. It does not require the agency to impose new standards.

In conclusion, I am in support of policy decisions based on sound science which will have a positive health impact on the families and children of this nation. If we are unsure about what is causing the increase in respiratory ailments, and the science appears to be inconclusive, then let's direct our efforts into promptly conducting the studies that will give us that information -- then act.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to learn more about how and why these new standards have been proposed. I look forward to learning more about this issue from today's witnesses.