EPA ‘Masquerading Propaganda as Facts’ in Support of Clean Air Act Provisions, Expert Says

By Penny Starr | June 21, 2011 | 3:55 AM EDT

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson spoke at an event on June 16, 2011 about how the Clean Air Act is saving lives and saving money. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act will save the United States $2 trillion by 2020, says Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson – citing figures from an EPA report which one expert has faulted for “widely exaggerated claims.”

Hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved over the next nine years, thanks to the regulation of air pollutants, Jackson said at the unveiling of a “prevention” campaign at the Health and Human Service Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

“Simply put, the Clean Air Act saves lives and strengthens the American workforce,” she said. “As a result, the economic value of clean air far exceeds the costs.

“Expressed in dollar terms, the benefits of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 alone are projected to reach approximately $2 trillion in 2020, with an estimated cost of $65 billion in that same year – a benefit to cost ratio of more than 30 to 1.”

Jackson cited a laundry list of statistics which she said showed the “benefits” of the Clean Air Act, including the saving of 160,000 lives and the prevention of more than 100,000 hospital visits in 2010 alone.

“Today, we are working to continue that success, and we are basing all of our public health protections on two key principles: the law and the best science.”

At Thursday’s event and in Congressional testimony, Jackson touted figures from a March 1, 2011 EPA report. However, the authors of that report themselves cautioned that “major uncertainties” were involved and that “there is no way to validate” some of the forecasts.

The report is the third in a series of periodic reports required by the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. The other two were carried out during the Clinton administration, in 1997 and 1999.

Writing about the report on March 3 Diane Katz, research fellow in regulatory policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation, raised a number of concerns.

“The report is astonishing for a variety of reasons—not the least of which is the enormous discrepancy between the Obama Administration’s numbers and those of a similar previous study by the Clinton Administration EPA, which pegged the economic benefits of the act to be $170 billion (or 91 percent less than the Obama EPA’s estimates),” Katz wrote.

“This magnitude of difference is explained by the unreliable assumptions underlying the Obama EPA’s wildly inflated claims.”

Katz explained the methodology of the report.

“Researchers compared two hypothetical scenarios based on conditions in 1990: One scenario ‘modeled’ steep declines in emissions of particulate matter and ozone as a consequence of the regulations imposed by the CAA Amendments of 1990.

“The difference in air quality between 1990 and 2020 was then used to project improvements in health and the environment. This result was compared to a second scenario in which the scope and stringency of regulatory controls remained fixed at their 1990 levels—i.e., prior to implementation of the 1990 amendments—while allowing for increased emissions from economic and population growth,” she wrote.

“The researchers acknowledge that ‘there is no way to validate’ their forecast of air quality conditions for the non-CAA scenario, effectively rendering the comparison between regulation and non-regulation meaningless,” argued Katz.

“Given these and other uncertainties that plague the report, the findings amount to little more than ‘guesstimates,’ Katz said. “Rather than document that the benefits of regulation roundly trump regulatory costs, the EPA’s report raises serious questions about the agency’s politicization of science.”

“Indeed, it is troubling to witness EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declaring regulatory victory when the researchers themselves assert the unreliability of their findings,” Katz concluded.

“Rather than strengthen its case for yet more regulation, the EPA’s misstatements warrant increased scrutiny of agency actions and increased skepticism about the supposed benefits of the regulatory status quo.”

Katz, who did not attend Thursday’s event, told CNSNews.com the EPA administrator was using questionable data to promote regulation.

“It is troubling that Administrator Jackson continues to publicize regulatory benefit numbers that she knows are completely unreliable at best, and deceptive, at worst,” Katz said.

“For all their claims about adhering to science, the top EPA regulators are masquerading propaganda as facts,” Katz said. “Perhaps Congress should question Administrator Jackson about these erroneous claims.”

Jackson ended her remarks Thursday with a nod to the EPA’s accomplishments over the years.

“After 40 years, EPA remains focused on its mission to protect our health by removing and preventing pollution in our environment,” she said. “We want environmental protection to continue to be an ‘ounce of prevention’ that keeps millions of Americans healthy.”