Environmentalists have a new nickname for members of Congress questioning the public health benefits of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed air rules: health deniers.
It’s a “new wing of climate science … now denying the medical science,” said Peter Iwanowicz, vice president of National Policy and Advocacy at the American Lung Association. “They believe that EPA has made this all up.”
As the job creation conversation has taken over national political discourse, EPA and environmentalists have fought back against rhetoric that EPA is a “job-killing” agency — and the accompanying slew of legislation aimed at EPA regulations — by arguing that upcoming air regulations are needed to save lives, and that translates into massive national costs.
The “health denier” campaign takes the effort to another level and comes as critics of EPA air regulations have sought to undermine the science behind EPA and environmentalist estimates of risks to human health posed by toxic air pollution.
Members of Congress who are also medical professionals — six doctors and one dentist — recently wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, calling the public health claims accompanying EPA’s proposed regulation to regulate hazardous air pollutants at utilities “dubious.”
“Our strong concern is that EPA has been double counting particulate health benefits — taking credit for them in the context of this proposed rule when it well knows that past rule makings already address these concerns,” the lawmakers wrote.
Jeff Holmstead, an EPA official under George W. Bush and current industry attorney, lays out the argument: “There are some real problems with EPA’s claims, and in some ways … the way they are used by EPA’s supporters.” Holmstead argues that “95-98 percent of the benefits that they claim are … going to be saving lives [are] of people who live in areas that already meet” air quality stands requirements.
Holmstead believes the real push behind utility rules is to shut down coal-fired power plants.
EPA has not formally responded to the letter from the lawmakers but told POLITICO in an email that “for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $5-$13 in health benefits in lives saved, asthma and emergency room visits avoided and more.” The agency notes that the new standards will apply only to about 44 percent of coal-fired plants that do not already meet the requirements.
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By Erica Martinson