EPA Chief Returns Fire in War Over Science

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 20: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy addresses a breakfast event at the National Press Club September 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. McCarthy announced that the EPA is proposing regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which requires future coal burning power plants to decrease 40 percent of their emission. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Jason Plautz
April 28, 2014, 8:21 a.m.

En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy fired back in the war over her agency’s sci­ence, slam­ming crit­ics who “man­u­fac­ture un­cer­tain­ties that stop us from tak­ing ur­gently needed cli­mate ac­tion.”

The agency’s sci­entif­ic stud­ies have be­come an in­creas­ingly con­veni­ent tar­get for in­dustry groups and con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans bent on stop­ping EPA reg­u­la­tions. Re­pub­lic­ans have sub­poenaed sev­er­al health stud­ies that EPA re­lies on for its air-pol­lu­tion rules, and in­creas­ing at­ten­tion has been heaped on the agency’s sci­entif­ic re­view pan­els.

Speak­ing at the an­nu­al meet­ing of the Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences on Monday, Mc­Carthy went after the “small but vo­cal group of crit­ics” who she said were more in­ter­ested in “look­ing to cloud the sci­ence with un­cer­tainty “¦ to keep EPA from do­ing the very job that Con­gress gave us to do.”

Mc­Carthy also touched on the agency’s con­tro­ver­sial use of hu­man test­ing to meas­ure the im­pact of air pol­lu­tion, the sub­ject of a re­cent In­spect­or Gen­er­al re­port that largely said the agency fol­lowed prop­er pro­ced­ure. Crit­ics have said that the hu­man tests put the sub­jects at risk.

In her speech, Mc­Carthy countered that the hu­man tests helped sci­ent­ists to “bet­ter un­der­stand bio­lo­gic­al re­sponses to dif­fer­ent levels of air pol­lut­ants.”

“Sci­ence is real and veri­fi­able,” she said. “With the health of our fam­il­ies and our fu­tures at stake, the Amer­ic­an people ex­pect us to act on the facts, not spend pre­cious time and tax­pay­er money re­fut­ing man­u­fac­tured un­cer­tain­ties.”

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