Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Environmental Protection, in Name Only

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, promised during her confirmation hearing to base agency policies and decisions on science, not politics: “If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide, ” she said. “Political appointees will not compromise the integrity of EPA’s technical experts to advance particular regulatory outcomes.” There are two reasons for skepticism. First, the EPA has long been a haven for zealots in career positions and for scientifically insupportable policies, so it has little integrity to compromise. It has a sordid history of incompetence, duplicity, and pandering to the most extreme factions of the environmental movement, all of which are likely to become even worse during the Obama administration. Second, Ms. Jackson herself is a veteran of 16 years at the EPA, during which she developed some of the agency’s most unscientific, wasteful, and dangerous regulations. While at the EPA, Ms. Jackson worked on Superfund (officially the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act), an ongoing EPA program intended to clean up and reduce the risk of toxic-waste sites. This program was originally conceived as a short-term project—$1.6 billion over five years to clean up some 400 sites (by law, at least one per state and, not coincidentally, about one per congressional district). But it has grown into one of the nation’s largest public-works projects: more than $30 billion spent on about 1,300 sites. UC-Davis medical economist J. Paul Leigh has analyzed the occupational hazards of environmental cleanup projects. He concluded that the risks of fatality to cleanup workers—a dump-truck driver involved in a collision or a laborer run over by a bulldozer, for example—are considerably larger than the cancer risks to individual residents that might result from exposures to unremediated sites...Henry I. Miller at National Review

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