Senate GOP press EPA over ozone effort

Republican senators are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to calculate and disclose the amount of money the agency spent on a failed effort to issue tough standards for smog.

In 2010, the EPA tried to issue a new air quality regulation on ozone, the main component of smog, but President Obama ordered a stop to the effort the following year. The decision was a major blow to environmentalists at the time.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked the EPA how much money was spent trying to revise the standard in 2011, but the agency “has evaded providing a response” ever since, he and seven other Senate Republicans wrote in a letter to the EPA on Tuesday.

“We can only conclude, in the face of repeated refusals to respond to or acknowledge a legitimate question about how taxpayer money has been spent by EPA, that EPA either seeks to thwart our oversight role in this matter or cannot answer the question,” they wrote. “Either explanation is deeply troubling.”

They note that the cost estimate should account for staffers working on the revision effort, public hearings held across the country and payments to outside scientists and consultants.

By law, the EPA is required to review its standards on ozone every five years and update them if necessary. It last issued a standard in 2008, though, so the administration shelved the 2011 effort to perform a full review this year. That effort is still in the works.

In addition to Sessions, Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) signed Tuesday’s letter.