Boston Herald: Fix the Clean Air Act

The Boston Herald cites the work of in this Sep. 10 editorial about fixing the Clean Air Act.

Fix the Clean Air Act
By Boston Herald Editorial Staff
Saturday, September 10, 2011

President Barack Obama was right to block, for at least two years, the Environmental Protection Agency from tightening ozone exposure standards. But he could still allow the agency to proceed if he wins re-election. Congress would be smart to take this moment to bring some rationality to the rules of the regulatory game.

The Clean Air Act is hideously flawed. It forbids the agency, when setting exposure standards, to consider costs. For ozone, EPA estimated costs by 2020 as $19 billion to $90 billion, depending upon where it lands in the range of a 6.7 percent to 20 percent reduction in the current standard. (Industry’s cost estimates are greater.) This was estimated to yield health benefits of $13 billion to $100 billion. It’s a mark against the agency that so far it has not announced the specific concentration it wants.

In a recession or boom, $90 billion in costs is staggering and $100 billion in benefits incredible. Once Congress requires a cost-benefit test, it needs expert advice from scientists without ties to the agency, such as research grants, on whether the EPA is basing decisions on clinically insignificant facts — and not just for ozone.

Steve Milloy, who blogs at, wrote in the Washington Times that the EPA claimed lung damage to participants in one experiment even at the tightest possible proposed standard while in fact test subjects’ lung function had decreased by 1 percent to 2 percent. Among other objections, Milloy said subjects in the control group breathed pure air, but in real life there’s always some background ozone.

Nobody has looked closely at the statute in more than 20 years. Scrutiny is long overdue.

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