Five Months Later, EPA Still Hasn’t Complied With Congressional Subpoena

Barbara Hollingsworth | January 24, 2014 | 4:41pm EST
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House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R.-Texas) (AP photo/Drew Angerer)

( -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has still not complied with a subpoena issued August 1, 2013 by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee seeking the scientific foundation of virtually every Clean Air Act regulation the agency has issued. (See EPA subpoena.pdf)

The subpoena demanded that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy hand over data from two decades-old taxpayer-funded studies as the agency moves towards the adoption of strict new ozone standards that could cost the U.S. economy $90 billion annually  – which would make them the most expensive regulations in U.S. history.

The subpoenaed data is cited as the scientific basis for EPA’s claim that microscopic airborne particles kill thousands of Americans each year, and to justify its regulatory regime. However, a recent independent study by biostatistician Steve Milloy found "no statistical correlation" between air quality and deaths in California.

Current regulations based on what committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) called EPA’s “secret science” are estimated to cost the U.S. economy $21 billion a year.

EPA counters that its clean air regulations produce $100 billion in public health benefits because each premature death from air pollution costs society $9.1 million. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, $9.1 million is not only more than the average American makes during a lifetime, it is more than twice the lifetime earnings of people with professional degrees.

The Science Committee had been seeking the original data from the 1993 Harvard Six Cities Study (HSC) and the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) 1995 Cancer Prevention Study II, which is housed at New York University, as well as more recent analyses of these studies for more than two years prior to issuing the subpoena, the first the committee has issued in 21 years.

But more than five months later, EPA has still not released the full studies even though the Shelby Amendment requires that recipients of federal grants make all data subsequently used in published reports or cited in federal rules or regulations available upon request.

In a Sept. 3, 2013 letter to McCarthy, Smith complained that after promising to release the data by the subpoena’s August 19 deadline, EPA only sent “a file of already public information along with a letter outlining excuses for why EPA did not comply with the subpoena… The only data actually produced was, on its face, worthless to the Committee and the American public.” (See Lamar Smith letter 9-3-13.pdf)

Smith added that the “excuses” the agency provided for not complying with the subpoena were “meritless,” including EPA’s claim that the large-scale epidemiological studies were “held solely by the outside research institutions” that conducted them and that confidentiality agreements prohibited EPA from releasing them to Congress.

“Congress is entitled to information in the Executive Branch’s possession, custody, or control, period,” Smith replied.

In an April 10, 2013 letter to Smith, EPA Associate Administrator Arvin Ganesan acknowledged that the data EPA had previously released to the committee “are not sufficient in themselves to replicate the analyses in the epidemiological studies.” (See EPA letter 4-10-13.pdf)

The chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality agreed, noting that the files supplied by EPA make it “impossible to replicate the findings of the ACS or HSC studies.” (See TCEQ Letter for the Record.pdf)

“By refusing to release the raw data to Congress and third-party scientists, EPA proposes that we toss the Scientific Method aside and instead trust that EPA will never make any scientific mistakes or propose scientifically unjustified restrictions,” wrote James Taylor, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute.

“This requires the American people to take the federal agency at its word that it would not engage in politically motivated conduct or seek to enhance its own funding, staffing, and power by claiming higher degrees of environmental threats than actually exist.”

At a Nov. 14th hearing before the Science Committee, McCarthy also admitted that the limited “peer-reviewed” data the EPA released to the committee in response to the subpoena would not allow independent researchers to replicate the studies’ findings.

When asked EPA why it has not complied with the congressional subpoena so far and whether it is planning to release the requested data to the Science Committee, a spokesman replied: “Our response is that we are continuing to work with the committee to resolve their oversight interest in this matter.”

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