DOCTORS FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS NEWSLETTER

July 1998 Vol. XV, No. 4

 

SCIENCE V. POLITICS AT THE EPA

New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on particulate "pollution" were announced at a press conference just before Thanksgiving and just after the afternoon press deadlines, when Congress had gone home and the elections that secured Clinton's second term were over, and when no one had to explain anything to elected representatives. It was called a November Surprise.

Why these rules (on ground-level ozone and particles less than 2.5 microns in size, "PM2.5s")? And why now? Bonner Cohen, editor of EPA Watch, explored these questions at the annual meeting of DDP, in Scottsdale, Arizona, July 11-12.

As usual, the bureaucrats claimed to be doing it "for the children"-particularly for asthmatic children.

This is the same agency that is pushing the Food and Drug Administration to "phase out" the use of CFCs in asthma inhalers. Of all the products under the "essential use" exemption of the Montreal Protocol, these use the least amount of CFCs, but are the only ones targeted by the EPA. The EPA also, through "verbal guidance" (virtually always adhered to because of the EPA's unbridled discretion to allocate available CFCs), nearly destroyed a small company that recycles the inhalers. (Inexplicably, the EPA decreed incineration rather than recycling.)

This is also the same agency that has targeted the organophosphorus pesticides, which may cause many children to die from cockroach-related asthma, as well as from Lyme disease transmitted by ticks. (Never mind the loss of billions of dollars worth of crops annually.) The agency could use the new powers conferred by Congress in 1996 to revoke tolerances, rather than revoking a pesticide's registration outright, thus foreclosing a legal challenge (Fumento, Wall St J, 4/2/98).

These pesticides, by the way, were the ones touted as substitutes when the EPA banned DDT, without regard to children at risk for malaria. Possible substitutes for organophosphates are less effective and still more costly (EPA Watch 6/26/98).

There is no evidence, Cohen pointed out, that PM2.5s have anything to do with the increase in childhood asthma. The increase primarily has occurred in inner-city black children, not the Hispanic or Caucasian children who breathe the same air. In fact, children in clean cities are more likely to suffer from asthma than those who live in heavily polluted areas: rates are higher in Munich than in the former East Germany, and higher in Stockholm than in Krakow. As to the purported increase in death rates when the PM2.5 count is high, the EPA refuses to release the data.

Concern for the health of children is but a pretext, Cohen believes. The real reason for the regulation is that the main sources of PM2.5s-vehicles, power plants, and manufacturers-are, not coincidentally, also sources of greenhouse gases. The PM2.5 regulations are probably the first step to the implementation of the Kyoto Treaty. The fact that about 400 cities and counties will be out of compliance is actually pleasing to the Administration, as it will subject them to the regulatory authority of the federal government. The more areas that are out of compliance, the more quickly the goals of Kyoto can be achieved.

Amid the dismal prospects, there is a ray of hope, in Cohen's view, from a most unusual source: scientists and officials employed by the EPA. In June, 19 EPA officials signed a letter to The Washington Times, protesting serious abuses of power at the EPA. This followed a May 12 report entitled "The People v. Carol Browner: EPA on Trial," published by the National Wilderness Institute (see www.nwi.org ).

The EPA employees write: "[W]e find the situation so reprehensible that we submit this letter, risking our careers rather than choosing to remain silent.

"Many of us work at the EPA's Regional Offices where environmental rules and regulations are enforced. There, as elsewhere within the EPA, employees are harassed, even fired, for protesting illegal or irresponsible behavior by managers who jeopardize the proper enforcement of the law....

"At the EPA, retaliation against whistleblowers occurs at every management level. At times, it involves the highest levels of administration including the offices of Regional Administrators and the Office of Administrator Carol Browner....

"Even if the Department of Labor, the Merit System's Protection Board, or the EPA's Office of Inspector General investigate and substantiate whistleblowers' claims, two results will inevitably follow. Whistleblowers will be fired or their careers dead ended; and individuals who carry out the activities reported by whistleblowers, or who retaliate against whistleblowers, will be promoted to keep them from incriminating administrators who approve of their actions.

"We are but a few of the EPA scientists, managers, and affiliated persons protesting fraud or waste in our agency involving hundreds of millions of dollars, and alerting the public that EPA regulations and enforcement actions based on poor science stand to harm rather than protect public health and the environment."

The letter can be downloaded at www.nwi.org , and some of the personal stories are published at http://members.aol.com/LewisDaveL .

House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has formally requested a General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation.

PALO VERDE ROLLS OUT RED CARPET FOR DDP

Executives and engineers at Arizona's Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station contributed a morning of their own time to conduct nearly 100 DDP meeting attendees on a VIP tour of the plant, including the control room simulator and the turbine room. Then they stayed late to field lots of questions.

Palo Verde generates enough electricity to serve Hong Kong, New Zealand, Denmark, Portugal, and Israel combined. Its annual output is equivalent to that of six Hoover Dams. There being no nearby body of water, cooling is accomplished with wastewater from metropolitan Phoenix; Palo Verde's Water Reclamation Facility can recycle up to 90 million gallons of wastewater daily.

After collecting $10 billion from power plants, the U.S. government has thus far reneged on its promise to provide long-term storage for spent fuel rods. They are now kept in the "swimming pool" on site; recycling is not allowed. A few participants were permitted to stand near the pool; no one's dosimeter beeped.

"Finally, someone designed and built a power plant the way that it should be done," commented Ed York. He was especially impressed with the safety from EMP.

Much of the tour was captured on videotape.

Special thanks are due to Executive Vice President William L. Stewart (APS Mail Station 9082, PO Box 53999, Phoenix, AZ 85072-3999); Senior Vice President James M. Levine, APS Mail Station 7602, PO Box 53999, Phoenix, AZ 85072-3999); Terry Price (APS Mail Station 7526, PO Box 52034, Phoenix, AZ 85072-2039); and Ed Gouvier ( [email protected] ). Please drop them a note of thanks.

EDWIN YORK AND ARTHUR ROBINSON HONORED

This year's recipient of the Edward Teller Award was Edwin York, who developed and tested military, personnel, and industrial protective equipment against nuclear weapons effects. Arthur Robinson received the Petr Beckmann award for his many contributions to our nation's civil defense as well as his courageous defense of scientific integrity, most recently in the Petition Project.

OTA ARCHIVE

The congressional Office of Technology Assessment, defunded by the 104th Congress, closed its doors in 1995. An archival set of its documents is available on CD-ROM (S/N 052-003-01457-2) for $23 from the Supt of Documents, PO Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7974, tel. (202)512-1800.

DDP, 1601 N. Tucson Blvd. #9, Tucson, AZ 85716, (520)325-2680.