EPA: Pretending air pollution is worse than it is

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently claimed that it is saving millions of lives and making the U.S. trillions of dollars through the Clean Air Act. These claims are false.

JunkScience.com has prepared a response to the agency’s fanciful claims — The EPA’s Clean Air Act: Pretending air pollution is worse than it is. The executive summary is below:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to tighten air quality standards at considerable societal expense under the guise that new standards are necessary to protect public health. Focusing on the EPA’s proposed Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR), this analysis shows that:

  • America’s air is already safe to breathe and it is much better than the EPA would have the public believe; and that
  • The EPA relies on health studies that exaggerate harm and economic studies that understate regulatory costs in order to maintain the fiction that its ever-more stringent regulations are providing meaningful public health benefits.

Some of this analysis’ notable points include:

  • Among the 32 Midwest and Eastern states that would be covered by the CATR, the daily air quality standard for fine particulate matter (i.e., soot) was violated less than one-tenth of a percent of the time (0.096%) in 2009.
  • According to the most recent data for ground-level ozone (i.e., smog), the 8-hour ozone standard was violated only 1.3 percent of the time in the 32 CATR states.
  • There is no tangible scientific evidence that current air quality standards are not already more than sufficiently protective of public health. Data has been hidden from the public by the agency and by a clique of EPA-funded researchers. The EPA’s scientific research has not been systematic or comprehensive despite the availability of data to the agency. Purported links between exposures to particulate matter and ground-level ozone, and health effects range from the entirely hypothetical to the subclinical (i.e., temporary changes that are physiologically detectable, but not otherwise meaningful).
  • EPA’s economic analysis of its air quality rules is utterly fantastic. The EPA claims, for example, that the estimated $7 billion in one-time costs of the CATR may produce economic benefits that equate to as much as $840 billion annually or 5.7 percent of U.S. GDP for 2009. The EPA claims that its implementation of the Clean Air Act produces monetized health benefits amounting to $1.3 trillion annually, or about 9 percent of 2009 U.S. GDP.
  • There is no meaningful or independent oversight of the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act by Congress or the courts.

Congress should amend the Clean Air Act to better manage the current state of U.S. air quality, instead of allowing the EPA to pretend that it is still 1970 and air quality is poor and emissions are unregulated.

24 thoughts on “EPA: Pretending air pollution is worse than it is”

  1. As usual with a government(especially this one!) – watch what happens not what the say!
    The old story line; “I’m form the government and I’m here to help you” has and will always be a warning not a pledge.

  2. I wonder if the EPA would acknowledge, then, according to their own formulations, that abortion costs the U.S. approx. 6.5 trillion per year. 1.37 million abortions times 5 million dollars per life. We would all be insanely rich if we just stopped abortions.

  3. Thank-you, Mr. Milloy, for making this point that no other person seems to be making. EPA is required to provide a cost/benefit analysis with every rule they promulgate. NO ONE ever goes back into the record to see if EPA’s claims ever came close to reality.

    Case in point: EPA recently claimed they saved millions of skin cancer incidences/year per capita because of Stratospheric Ozone Protection Rules. I pointed out to the EPA press person that incidences of melanomas and carcinomas per capita continue at unchanged rates according to U.S. cancer statistics. Her response was that their modeling showed that it would have been worse. It is a tautology: if the EPA had not stopped all the spuing of CFCs there would have been more skin cancers. Thus, the fact that there is no increase in skin cancer rates proves that the SOP rules worked.

    When will Congress EVER haul Lisa Jackson’s ass in front of committee and force her prove past health and cost benefits? She should be required to do this before she is permitted to promulgate the next rule. And if she cannot prove it, then neither should one more new rule be allowed to go on the books.

  4. I wish I could make up statements that are not subject to question and get paid for them. These are supposedly facts.

    As Mark Twin famously said fiction is more difficult than supposed non-fiction. At least fiction has to be believable.

  5. We have the exact same discussion in Sweden with regards to spiked winter tyres. The swedish EPA claims that an enormous amount of people die because of the particulate created by the tyres and wishes to ban them on streets in the centre of cities, all with out any scientific evidence. What is scientifically proven however is that cars without spiked tyres are more likely to have fatal accidents in winter time when the roads are icy (very strange!). So what they in fact do is that they consider hypothetical deaths to be more meaningful than actual deaths. The whole thing is a travesty!

  6. EPA has a chart on their Air Trends page showing that the air is cleaner than at any time since 1980 despite growing population, large increases in population, miles driven, & GDP. All EPA’s earlier charts began with the year 1970. By changing the start point to 1980, the decrease in pollutants is lessened.

  7. One thing I did not see addressed in the paper is that the EPA apparently assumes that the money used to comply if spent otherwise would have no benefit at all. However, as we all know, allowing people to keep and spend money as benefits them best leads to prosperity, which is one of the best ways to improve health.

  8. JOBNLS, It took a bit of contemplation to understand your message then success! They were very common fifty years ago but seldom seen in the US today. They are called “studded snow tires” over here. I don’t know why they are seldom used but they are not illegal in my state of Iowa but can only be used from November through March.

  9. One nitpick. On table 1, you forgot that 2008 was a leap year. It doesn’t change your conclusions, but it is best not to have any errors of fact, no matter how trivial.

  10. Steve, small point here, but in your Table 1 for the
    32 CATR states, your 2008 data is slightly incorrect. 2008 was a leap year, so should be 366 days, 282186 possible days and a 0.153% violation.

    As was often stated on the old Junkfood Science blog, it’s the dose level. Good to see someone actually reporting EPA’s math and ‘buddy network’ of studies.

  11. Our worlds are infected with the Precautionary Principle. It appears, as noted about deaths, hypothetical problems are valued more than actual problems.

  12. Even though there are not as many people as we would like to wake and say something, there are still enough people to write polite, but very challenging letters and legitimate question that could bury the EPA in a mountain of mail that they couldn’t answer without pleading “Guilty”.

  13. just like scientists, economists, lawyers, politicians, and just about every other institution. They all make up statements.

  14. I doubt the Congress will ever do this. It would start a nasty cycle of auditing their bills. When we have elected officials who invest rather than spend, provide no prospectus and are not subject to audits of effectiveness, how can you expect them to go after one of their agencies?

  15. Excellent analogy. Our EPA does not consider the health benefits of cheaply available electricity which prolongs human life. CO2 is killing no one and lessening life spans of no one. Make electricity less available and mortality rates “necessarily sky rocket”, to coin a phrase. Cold kills more than warm. More CO2 enables more life.

  16. As usual the governmental organizations do their best to rob the citizens as much as they can doing their best. Soon they’ll receive some kinds of award for “Who invented another trick to rob the citizens”!

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