With the decision by the Supreme Court to consider reversing a lower court’s ruling that the EPA exceeded its authority in issuing a “cross-state” pollution rule last year, environmentalists are delighted. The lower court’s decision was “confusing,” according to Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of the American Lung Association, adding that “we are very pleased that they [the court] may clarify this.”
If the lower court's decision is overruled, the EPA's new air regulations would require a decrease in sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by 73 percent from 2005 levels, along with a 54-percent decrease in nitrogen oxides. The new regulations ignore the fact that those levels have already decreased by 71 percent since 1980 and that overall emissions have been cut in half in that period. But it appears that the environmentalists running the EPA really don't care.
The agency has based its air-quality decisions on the so-called “six-cities study” (where 8,111 inhabitants were surveyed in six small towns about the impact of pollution on their health) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) study, purporting to show that high levels of pollution lead to health problems. The validity of these studies has been brought repeatedly into question. Richard Gordon, writing for the Cato Institute, said:
The EPA has used these studies to rationalize [its] rule-makings since at least 1997:
the small size of most of the municipalities used in the six-city study … are too few to … produce meaningful estimates of impacts….
The ACS study involved respondents selected and interviewed by ACS volunteers. Neither the volunteers nor the respondents were randomly selected; the volunteers sought out those close to them. The survey was further compromised because it was designed to explore general health issues and was turned into a pollution impact study by marrying the survey data with EPA emissions data.
Other criticisms of these studies included the fact that people spend 89 percent of their time indoors and consequently exterior pollution levels “tell little about the level and composition of actual human exposure," according to Gordon.
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