Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Examining the State of Air Quality Monitoring Technology.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you Chairman Carper, and thank you all for being here with us today.

“And I appreciate the travel and I appreciate the expertise that you will bring.

“You know, I think we can all agree that clean air is vital to the health and wellbeing of Americans across the nation. However, I am a bit concerned about the administration and some of the neglect I've seen in the major flaws in the air monitoring data quality.

“It seems as though the administration is prioritizing an agenda while misallocating taxpayer dollars on projects that have limited benefits to our public health and welfare.

“First, I think it is important to acknowledge that Americans enjoy some of the cleanest air in the world and recognize just how much air pollution in the United States has been reduced.

“According to the EPA, between 1980 and 2022, the combined emissions of criteria air pollutants and precursor pollutants was reduced by 73 percent.

“Hazardous air pollutant emissions have also similarly declined.

“Despite this fact, many Americans are led to believe through inaccurate claims that our air quality is getting worse when, in fact, air quality has significantly improved and can get better.

“Congress has made significant investments to support the ambient air quality monitoring network, the federal government partners with states, localities, and Tribes to build and operate the system.

“This network is comprised of official stationary air monitors that gather data to inform regulatory decisions and determine regulatory compliance.

“While use of these official monitors has been generally successful, deficiencies with one model’s accuracy and reliability demonstrate the need to ensure that the monitoring system is maintained at the highest standards and is the most accurate it can be.

“One year ago, EPA modified a measurement method of the Teledyne PM Mass Monitor, used to track and measure particulate matter.

“These monitors are crucial to inform potential regulatory actions undertaken by the EPA and the states, including implementation of the national ambient air quality standards or the NAAQS.

“Peer-reviewed analysis reported that the monitors had led to over-inflated measures of fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5.

“In other words, the monitors led the EPA and states to believe that the air quality was worse than it actually was.

“These artificially high readings date all the way back to 2017 when they were first deployed.

“Those Teledyne monitors had a significantly high bias relative to other monitors, including the ‘gold standard’ reference monitor that the chairman spoke about.

“On February 14th of this year, the EPA issued a proposal to retroactively modify PM 2.5 data reported from the Teledyne monitors from when they were first deployed from the years of 2017 through April 2023.

“The EPA proposal notes that the more than 400 Teledyne monitors in our official [ambient] air monitoring network were consistently producing PM 2.5 data that was 20 percent higher than the real concentration levels.

“To be clear, this level of inaccuracy could be stated as unprecedented.

“It is absolutely critical that EPA prioritize correcting this unprecedented error, which they are doing, and refocus on providing high-quality, accurate monitoring data that is relied on for regulatory compliance.

“This is where the EPA’s focus should be in a monitoring context before the agency promotes the use of emerging, and less accurate, sensors.

“Despite the challenges faced by the existing network used for regulatory purposes, there has been a choice to prioritize funding for less-accurate, difficult to use, low-cost monitors.

“The partisan American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act funded the use of less accurate and reliable, low-cost air quality sensors.

“A recent GAO report identified key challenges and data deficiencies associated with use of those low-quality air sensors.

“GAO found that users face difficulties understanding the capabilities, operations, and maintenance requirements and accuracy of those sensors.

“Particularly, GAO noted users often lack the knowledge to select the right sensors or deploy them in a way that best fits their intended use to gain accurate and actionable data.

“This leads to confusion when the data lacks the high-degree of confidence necessary to make regulatory decisions and can cause misunderstandings about the concentration of air pollutants that are affecting local communities.

“Of particular concern GAO points out [is] that the EPA has not taken basic steps to address issues with sensor use, such as issuing guidance on how to make the sensors more usable for communities.

“This confusion can undermine confidence in EPA and state regulatory actions, as well as cause our communities and residents to panic about their air quality and misallocated resources.

“I am concerned that spending more money on new, unproven, and inaccurate monitors that can’t be used reliably to direct our regulatory action will at best be a waste of money or a misplaced priority.

“Instead, we need to make improvements in the existing monitoring network so that we can build on the substantial progress we have made to improve our air quality.

“With that, I yield back.”

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