'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Studies designed to address such questions are the ones that were not conducted

In his most recent column, the hardest working man at the New York Times while providing us with his insightful-as-ever take on Clarke's book tangentally refers to industry insiders "writing their own regulations" regarding mercury pollution. I hadn't heard about this story, poked around and found it. I believe this is what Krugman's talking about: (from "EPA staff say mercury proposal was politicized", LA Times, 3/17/2004)

Political appointees in the Environmental Protection Agency bypassed agency professional staff and a federal advisory panel last year to craft a rule on mercury emissions preferred by the industry and the White House, several longtime EPA officials say.

The officials say they were told not to undertake the normal scientific and economic studies called for under a standing executive order. At the same time, the proposal to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants was written using key language provided by utility lobbyists.

The Bush administration has said that the proposed rule would cut mercury emissions by 70 percent in the next 15 years, and is tied to the president's "Clear Skies" initiative. But critics say it would delay reductions in mercury levels for decades at a risk to public health, while saving the power and coal industries billions of dollars.

Studies designed to address such questions are the ones that were not conducted.

EPA veterans say they cannot recall another instance when the agency's technical specialists were cut out of developing a major regulatory proposal.

The administration chose a process "that would support the conclusion they wanted to reach," said John A. Paul, a Republican environmental regulator from Ohio who cochaired the EPA-appointed advisory panel and who says that its 21 months of work on mercury was ignored.

"There is a politicization of the work of the agency that I have not seen before," said Bruce C. Buckheit, who served in major federal environmental posts for two decades. He retired in December as director of the EPA's Air Enforcement Division, partly because he felt enforcement was stymied. "A political agenda is driving the agency's output, rather than analysis and science," he said.

Studies designed to address such questions are the ones that were not conducted -- lo! behold!, comedy.

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