WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, criticized a report released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General (IG) regarding mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.


“The report released today by the EPA Office of Inspector General is another example that Nikki Tinsley has politicized the office,” Senator Inhofe said. “The report titled ‘Additional Analyses of Mercury Emissions Needed Before EPA Finalizes Rules for Coal-Fired Electric Utilities’ was conducted by employees without sufficient technical, scientific, or regulatory experience to properly evaluate the regulatory-setting process -- and it shows in the poor quality of the report.”


Inhofe cites for example, that the report asserts that the mercury Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) number was not based on the top twelve percent of performing plants, but on the co-benefits level achieved from installing other pollution control equipment -- and that it set a performance standard instead of a technology standard. That is not how the law is constructed. Not a single plant in the database upon which this standard is being set uses mercury specific technology. Controls at the best twelve percent of plants achieve mercury reductions as a “co-benefit” of controlling other sources. So achieving a “co-benefit” level at the best plants is what the law requires.


In addition, the report asserts that some federal advisory committee members advising EPA on setting the mercury standard considered the job unfinished. But this advisory group met for almost two years and had more than a dozen meetings and many dozens of sub-group meetings. Few clean air advisory groups in history have ever met so frequently or produced so much work for EPA to consider. What the IG fails to report is that most members of the FACA process believed that the issue was discussed thoroughly and it was not until after the conclusion that a minority of members wanted to reopen the process – a fact she would have discovered if she had polled the members, which she did not.


“Clearly, this politicized office is not fit to evaluate the quality of policies developed by regulators in the Office of Air and Radiation, who unlike the IG’s office, have the necessary training and expertise in the rule-making process ,” Senator Inhofe concluded.