Joseph I. Lieberman


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In my view, EPA’s most fundamental responsibility under the Clean Air Act is to tell Americans truthfully whether the concentrations of pollution in the air they breathe are at levels that endanger their health. If EPA knows that particulate matter hurts people at lower concentrations than those reflected in the agency’s existing air-quality standards, then I believe the agency has a legal and a moral responsibility to tighten the standards.

Following an exhaustive review of peer-reviewed studies on the subject, the scientists, doctors, and public servants on the congressionally chartered Clean Air Science Advisory Committee have told EPA that air-borne particulate matter is triggering large numbers of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature deaths in many areas of the country that meet EPA’s existing air quality standards for particulate matter. That leads me directly to the conclusion that EPA must make those standards more stringent. An alternative risk analysis requested by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has just come to the same conclusion.

Unfortunately, EPA has proposed to not lower the annual particulate standard at all, and to lower the daily standard to a level that remains above the limit that the Science Advisory Committee has identified as necessary to protect public health.

I do not believe that EPA can justify this disregard for the Science Advisory Committee’s recommendations. Skeptics enjoyed representation on the Committee and ample opportunity to press their views. To me, it makes no sense to disregard the Committee’s conclusions based on complaints that were not sufficiently compelling to convince that expert body. Here I note that only two of the twenty-two members of the Committee’s panel on particulate matter dissented from the panel’s conclusions, and that all seven members of the committee agreed with the panel’s majority.

Having reviewed the statements and testimony delivered at last week’s hearing, it appears to me that the impetus behind the calls for EPA to disregard the Science Advisory Committee’s recommendations is not dissatisfaction with the scientific work of the Committee, but rather concern over the cost of bringing air quality into line with more stringent standards.

Clearly, achieving further reductions in particulate-forming emissions will cost money. That is why the Clean Air Act’s system for implementing the health-based air-quality standards includes, at nearly every turn, generous regard for what is practicable and what is not. There is no need, then, to flout the Act by infecting the standard-setting process with considerations of implementation costs. I would point out, moreover, that by any reasonable measure, the economic benefit of the lives saved and illnesses averted by bringing particulate levels down to the levels recommended by the Science Advisory Committee would vastly outweigh the economic costs of the added pollution controls.

The concentrations of particulate matter persisting in many parts of the country cause more than 45,000 premature deaths every year. The problem is too grave and too large to be concealed. We can solve this problem, and the first step is to level with the American people. That is why I urge EPA to set the revised particulate matter standards at the levels that the Science Advisory Committee has determined necessary to protect public health. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.