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Inhofe Calls on Obama EPA to Halt Ozone Standard Announcement Given Scientific Integrity Concerns

Senate Committee Investigation Finds Lack of Impartiality, Financial Conflicts of Interest in EPA Science Boards  

Link to Letter from Senator Inhofe to EPA IG 

Washington, D.C. - Today, following an investigation by the Republican staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works into the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) science panels on ozone and particulate matter, Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member on the EPW Committee, called for the Obama EPA to put a halt to its plan to reconsider the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone.  EPA is expected to announce within days its decision to tighten the ozone NAAQS, which is largely based on the recommendations of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC). Yet findings from a new Senate investigation put the impartiality of CASAC in question.

"Today I am calling on the Obama-EPA to halt its plan to move forward with the reconsideration of the ozone standard," Senator Inhofe said. "EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly said that she is basing her decision on the recommendations of CASAC. Yet an investigation by my staff has uncovered an apparent lack of impartiality and financial conflicts of interest among the members of EPA's science advisory panels.  EPA is clearly politicizing the science, all in the name of an environmental activism that will destroy jobs.  This further undermines the scientific integrity of the Obama Administration, and in particular, the EPA.

"These findings cannot be taken lightly: EPA estimates that the cost of compliance for the ozone standard could be $90 billion a year, making it the most expensive environmental regulation in history.  Additional studies have projected that the rule could cost upwards of a trillion dollars and destroy 7.4 million jobs. With such an enormous price tag and so many jobs at stake, it is absolutely unacceptable for this rule to be based on dubious science.

"President Obama does not have to go through with this: his EPA is bound neither by science nor law to revise this standard.  In 2008, the Bush EPA tightened the standard significantly from 0.084 ppm to 0.075 ppm, and state and local communities are already making great strides in air quality as they work to meet that standard. Instead of acknowledging this progress, EPA is showing its decision to be purely political by further tightening the standard in order to appease the environmental left.

"Given that the Obama EPA is not obligated to act and is apparently basing its rulemaking on the advice of those who lack scientific objectivity, the Agency is showing itself to be bent on creating needless economic pain, killing jobs and stifling economic growth at a time when our nation can least afford it.  EPA should halt this agenda at once and make it a priority to restore the balance between environmental progress and economic growth."

Senator Inhofe sent a letter to the Inspector General of the EPA Arthur A. Elkins asking him to investigate further whether EPA's management of two Clean Air Act Advisory Committees has resulted in panels that lack impartiality and serve as a "rubber stamp" of EPA's policy objectives, circumventing both the law and Administration policy.  Importantly, these committees played a key role in the advisory process for the pending tightening of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate matter (PM). Senator Inhofe has requested that the EPA IG report back to Congress with its findings by September 19, 2011.

The investigation by EPW Republicans of EPA's management of its advisory committees found:

 - Lack of Impartiality: EPA has violated its own Peer Review Handbook by selecting members who have publicly taken sides on the issues in question and thus lack the required impartiality. In direct conflict with the recommendations of the National Academies, EPA has also repeatedly asked authors of key studies to opine on their own work by including them on panels that are reviewing reports based on their research.

 - Failure to Balance Perspectives: EPA has also violated the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by failing to assure the resulting panels are balanced in terms of the viewpoints presented. In the two cases examined, no experts with publications supporting a contrary view were selected to balance the 30 to 40 percent of the members included on the panels who have taken public positions.

 - Failure to Rotate Members: EPA has disregarded Administration policy to rotate membership on standing panels to avoid creating "regulars". On key panels, members are now serving 12 year terms.

 - Financial Conflict of Interest: EPA has repeatedly selected panel members who are benefiting from millions of dollars in EPA research grants, creating both the appearance and likelihood of a conflict of interest.