EPA Restores Science to Air Quality Standards, Science Group Says

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Lisa Nurnberger, 202-331-6959

EPA Restores Science to Air Quality Standards, Science Group Says

Statement by Francesca Grifo, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson today announced the agency is reversing controversial changes to how science is used to set air pollution standards.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for harmful pollutants using the best available science. For decades, EPA staff scientists worked with the independent Clean Air Science Advisory Committee to review the latest studies and recommend appropriate standards.

The Bush administration changed this process, eliminating the independent assessment by scientific experts and injecting political determinations much earlier in the decision-making process. Under the Bush rules, high-level political appointees were involved from the start, working with staff scientists to draft a document containing "policy-relevant science" that "reflects the agency's views" that replaced the independent "staff paper" agency scientists had previously produced. The Clean Air Science Advisory Committee strongly criticized the Bush rules.

The following is a statement from Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of UCS's Scientific Integrity Program:

"Restoring science as a foundation for setting air pollution standards is a return to reason. While policy decisions are based on a variety of factors, public health suffers when politics are allowed to trump the best available science.

"The Bush administration's rule changes allowed the EPA to circumvent and squelch input from its own scientists and advisory committees. But the agency needs independent science to protect public health and safety.

"Now the EPA once again will fully utilize its scientists in setting air pollution standards. It's heartening to see that the Obama administration is taking concrete steps to back its strong rhetoric about restoring scientific integrity to federal agencies."

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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