Republican chairman says EPA has 'muzzled dissenting voices'

Republican chairman says EPA has 'muzzled dissenting voices'
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Republicans on the House Science Committee questioned Tuesday whether the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce ozone pollution would bring the promised benefits.

The panel, led by Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (R-Texas), held a hearing with health and economic experts, and tried to poke holes in the EPA’s contention that reducing the allowable level of ozone, a component of smog, would improve respiratory health.

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Republicans on the committee also sought to highlight the forecast from NERA Economic Consulting that the regulation would cost well over $1 trillion, an estimate that the EPA and the rule’s supporters dispute.

“During earlier stages of this rule-making, EPA relied on studies with data that was not publicly available,” Smith said at the hearing.

“This raises a lot of suspicions. Furthermore, the EPA has regularly chosen to disregard inconvenient scientific conclusions and muzzled dissenting voices,” he said.

Smith used the hearing to promote two of the committee’s bills that would restrict which scientific studies the EPA could use to justify its rules. The House will vote on the bills this week.

“There is no concrete evidence to support a lower standard for ozone before we have even complied with the last standard,” said Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas). “If anything, more research needs to be done,” he added, while accusing the EPA of using “a very limited set of studies.”

The EPA proposed in November to limit ground-level ozone concentrations to between 65 and 70 parts per billion, down from the current 75 parts per billion.

The agency and groups supporting the rule say it would significantly reduce respiratory problems, including asthma attacks. That would reduce healthcare costs, missed days of school and work, and premature deaths.

“It’s clear that air quality-related illnesses have a very real and destructive effect on the economy — on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars annually — and the benefits of reducing those effects will be seen throughout the country,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonReturning to the moon to gain soft political power Some Dem chairmen have changed tune on Trump impeachment Hillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Prosecutors used FISA warrant to get info on Huawei | Study finds discrimination in Facebook ads | Bezos retains voting control over ex-wife's Amazon stocks MORE (D-Texas), the top Democrat on the committee.

Democrats also pointed to the Clean Air Act, which requires the EPA to set ozone standards based solely on the impact to human health and the environment, and can only consider costs in implementing the standards.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) drew an analogy to medicine, using Dr. Mary Rice, a physician and instructor at Harvard Medical School who testified in support of the rule, as an example.

“You don’t make your medical diagnosis based on the cost of treatment, you don’t say to your patient, ‘This is what you can afford, so this is what I’m going to diagnose,’ ” she said.