Congress (finally) asks: Is science driving EPA policy, or is policy driving science?

Seventeen years after Steve Milloy’s seminal and controversial investigation on behalf of the Department of Energy into whether EPA regulations are driven by science or politics, the House Energy and Commerce Committee gets around to exploring the issue.

As recounted in Milloy’s bio on Debunkosaurus:

Following the end of the Cold War, the Department of Energy (DOE) faced clean-up costs for its nuclear weapons sites amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. The high costs would largely have been incurred because of EPA standards that essentially would have required the former weapons sites be returned to “Garden of Eden” status. At the time, the DOE took the EPA standards so seriously that it was actually developing essentially a giant vacuum cleaner to suck-up the top layer of sand at the Nevada Test Site (approximately 5,400 square miles in size), decontaminate it and replace the sand. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the clean-ups, the Bush administration DOE commissioned Milloy in 1992 to lead an investigation into whether EPA clean-up standards were based on science or politics. Milloy’s team of science and policy experts (called the Regulatory Information Analysis Project) compiled a report titled, “Choices in Risk Assessment: The Role of Science Policy in the Environmental Risk Management Process.” Completed in the fall of 1994, the report concluded that environmental policy was largely based on politics, not science. But when the report was completed and circulated for review within the Clinton administration-run DOE, the report was flagged as politically incorrect and Milloy was ordered by staffers of Clinton appointee Carol Henry (a former EPA staffer) to keep the report secret. Sacrificing his business relationship with the Clinton DOE, Milloy disobeyed the order and released the report, which was subsequently featured in a Wall Street Journal editorial. The attention that “Choices in Risk Assessment” garnered coincided with the Republican takeover of 104th Congress and congressional focus on regulatory reform, vaulting Milloy into the regulatory reform debate about to take place on Capitol Hill. Milloy testified before the U.S. Senate about risk assessment in the context of DOE clean-up on March 6, 1995. The DOE never wound up spending hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up its weapons sites. No word on what ever happened to the giant NTS vacuum cleaner.

Click for the House Energy and Commerce Committee press release.

7 thoughts on “Congress (finally) asks: Is science driving EPA policy, or is policy driving science?”

  1. Interesting question about EPA. As a scientist who used to work there, I once asked scientists working in EPA whether they thought the decisions the Agency made were based on science. Every one said yes, the decisions were based on their science. I asked the same questions to top decision makers in an EPA Regional Office and they said that science never factored into their decisions, that it was always based on other factors (like politics). This is an astonishing disconnect. Many scientists there are sincere, but don’t really know how the decisions are made.

  2. Dude, you have been lied to about my city. If Bush had not lowered the ozone requirements from 80 to 75, Houston would have achieved full clean-air-act compliance in 2009. We have cleaner air than Washington, Detroit, or New York.

    Here is the regional monitoring report for 2010 to prove it.

    I agree with your basic sentiments, but get your facts straight.

  3. Eisenhower’s oft quoted speech where he warned against the industrial- military complex, he also warned about scientist in academia becoming corrupted. But the media always edits that part out. It comes very shortly ion the speech after the ndustrial- military complex warning

  4. One of the major issues facing the next Administration is reining in the eco-nitwits at EPA,DOE Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

    The last refuge of the nitwits is sure to be about teh Admisntration seeking and poisoning the environment.

    Before you can cut back and savor a the “peace dividend “, you have to declare Victory. Then you can demobilize to a “peace time” maintain-the-achievements standard. In fact after forty years of hard work, there are only two metropolitan areas ini the country that still have have endemic air pollution, These are Houston with its refineries; and Los Angeles with its geographical accident of air inversions resulting in smog.

    Even there, both plsces are much cleaner then they used to be. Indeed by the standards in place on the First Earth Day in 1970, both would be deemed to have “Clean Air. Our standards have tightened somewhat, since then.

    As regards Water, our Rivers and Lakes are now ALL essentially Clean; and in compliance. The open sewers of old, and burning rivers are now nothing but parables to scare and warn the children.

    The incoming Administration should plan and announce a date for a National Holiday celebrating the successful completion of our 41+ years of hard effort. Furthermore, with toxic pollution conquered, North America produces no NET CO2 from Man or Nature, as reported by the teams of Scientists at Princeton. The number of bio-sequestration sites we have sacrificed and created under different names, like Wilderness, and National Parks, are more than sufficient to do the job. So it is NOT an issue here, however much the eco-nitwits would like to waste money on it.

    With such an education for the citizenry, it would be much easier to route out the Watermelon leftists, who have been burrowing into our cleanup bureaucracy, and trying to undermine and destroy America.

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