Its practices have defiled scientific integrity, but proposed corrections bring shock and defiance.
Guest essay by John Rafuse
President Trump’s budget guidance sought to cut $1.6 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency’s $8.1 billion expectation. Shrieks of looming Armageddon prompted Congress to fund EPA in full until September 2017, when the battle will be joined again.
Then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would prioritize Superfund cleanups based on toxicity, health-impact and other factors. The ensuing caterwauling suggested that EPA had no priorities since Bill Ruckelshaus (EPA’s first administrator, 1970-1975). But consider some standard EPA practices:
1. EPA advocates claim the US is unhealthy and dirty. They won’t admit that US water quality has improved dramatically since 1970. They deny that factories, cars and power plants are far more efficient and clean. They ignore that, while most nations continue to cut down forest habitats for fuel, the Lower 48 states have more forest coverage than when the Pilgrims landed in 1620.
They never mention that the US did not sign the 1992 Kyoto Accord, nor that it is the only nation to meet its Kyoto targets. Is it ignorance? malignance? eco-professional propaganda? Yes, yes, and yes.
The United States is one of the cleanest, healthiest nations on earth. Our progress will continue because we rejected the Paris Accord and thus will not cripple our economy, jobs or environmental progress. Other nations must work hard to catch us. They may work hard, but they won’t catch up, and they’ll blame us.
2. Eco-militants at EPA tricked the Supreme Court into letting it label plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide a pollutant. Meanwhile, professional enviros demand “zero tolerance” for pollutants – because they claim “any dose kills.”
However, CO2 is plant fertilizer, the trace gas that makes plant and animal life possible on our planet. Atmospheric CO2 is just 400 parts per million (ppm), or 0.04% of the air we breathe, compared to 21% oxygen and almost 1% argon. Classrooms average 1,000 to 2,000 ppm; US nuclear submarines average 5,000 to 8,000ppm. We inhale 400 ppm and exhale 40,000 to 50,000 ppm.
That means 100 to 125 times the “fatal dose” of a “zero tolerance pollutant” is always in our lungs. We don’t die, because CO2 is not a pollutant and because real scientists know that dosage, not microscopic presence, is the key.
EPA keeps cheating, but dosage always determines poisonous impact. In fact, EPA experiments illegally exposed human test subjects to 10 and even 30 times the levels of fine soot particles that EPA claims are lethal. No one got sick or died, and yet EPA continues its “standards” and lies.
3. DDT saved millions in World War II from death by typhus. By 1970 DDT had helped wipe out malaria in 99 countries, including the USA. Administrator Ruckelshaus appointed a scientific committee to examine claims that the pesticide caused cancer and other problems. The experts said it did not, because dosage determines effect.
Ruckelshaus ignored them, never attended a minute of their hearings, never read a page of their extensive report. He simply banned DDT in 1972. He later said he had a “political problem” due to Rachel Carson’s misinformed book Silent Spring and pressure from the Environmental Defense Fund, and he needed to “fix it.”
Other nations followed suit, banning DDT. Since 1972, some 40 million children and parents have needlessly died from malaria. Today DDT is partially reinstated, but P.A. Offit, Pandora’s Lab, Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, quotes Michael Crichton, MD: “Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in twentieth century America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die, and we didn’t give a damn.”
4. EPA knowingly relies on fake science. Data from point-source “pollution” are used to “project” thousands of asthma cases and cancer deaths. EPA “validates” the analyses by “assuming” that each projected death and illness happened to someone who had spent every second of a 70-year life at the point-source – within 6 feet of the measurement point. But Newton’s Law of Inverse Squares proves that dosage wanes by the inverse square of the distance; 5 units of distance cuts dosage impact to 1/25 what it was at its source. At 10 units, the impact is 1/100th. EPA’s analysis is a dishonest, purposeful scam.
The 70-year/6-foot/no-movement assumption makes a joke of all its calculations and projections. EPA has relied on that scam for decades to “prove” need for a non-scientific regulatory remedy for every newly invented threat.
5. EPA colludes with professional environmentalists to “fix” “inadequate” draft regulations. EPA then “settles” cases, pays co-conspirators’ fees with taxpayer funds and wins excessive regulatory powers it sought from the beginning. Parties who oppose the decision never get a day in court, and the “sue-and-settle” cases ensure high costs but provide no health or environmental benefits.
6. EPA covers up crimes. As the auto industry cratered since 2000, Flint, Michigan has lost 25,000 citizens and become poorer and more minority. The 2010 Census Report concluded that 42% of the population was in a “level of poverty and health … not comparable to other geographic levels of these estimates.” Yet EPA (and state and local authorities) did nothing to protect them. What happened?
The 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act delegated compliance to EPA, which typically approves a State Compliance Plan, re-delegates authority, and oversees State and local enforcement. Flint’s drinking water has been lead-poisoned for three years – ever since state and local officials switched water sources to save money with no hearings, approvals or notifications to EPA or affected citizens.
Drinking, tasting and smelling nauseating newly-brown water alerted residents to potential dangers. An EPA expert tested the water in 2014 and wrote repeated warnings to Agency officials. A February 2015 Detroit News report said EPA’s Regional Administrator knew the facts but claimed her “hands were tied.”
Then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy forbade the staff expert from meeting, writing or speaking about the issue, and reassigned him. Thus the two most senior and directly responsible EPA officials “washed their hands” of the problem.
But Flint Medical Center tested for lead in the water and sounded the alarm. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added powerful voices. Flint’s mayor and Michigan’s governor took heat until the state’s attorney general initially charged five Flint and Michigan officials with wrongful issuance of permits, and tampering, altering and falsifying evidence. That has now expanded to more than 50 criminal charges against 15 state officials; including one of involuntary manslaughter (an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease took 12 lives).
The two “clean-handed” EPA officials kept mum until June 12, 2016, when Gina McCarthy wrote to Michigan’s governor and Flint’s mayor. Citing “major challenges” and her “long-term” clean water goal, she blamed state and local staffs and old and (newly) over-large piping. She said EPA had no money to help. Will Michigan’s AG indict EPA officials involved in the EPA cover-ups? That would be logical, but don’t bet on it.
McCarthy’s was a nasty letter from a culpable official. Later in 2016, Congress voted $110 million to repair Flint’s drinking water, no thanks to EPA. The work will go on for years as Flint residents get bottled water from EPA and the state.
President Trump’s budget guidance exposed decades-old EPA abuses. The evidence exposes EPA’s lack of mission, commitment and integrity. If EPA would use honest, evidence-based science to protect the nation’s health, it would be a welcome and long overdue change – perhaps a miracle. What’s your bet?
Independent consultant John Rafuse worked for government agencies, a think-tank and an international oil and gas company on energy, trade, environmental, regulatory and national security issues.