June 2016

By Jennifer Montazzoli

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified for over two hours at a House Science Committee hearing June 22 on Ensuring Sound Science at EPA. Not much has changed since the last hearing on this topic in July 2015.  The committee revisited the scientific unreliability of the EPA’s views of climate change, while McCarthy stuttered in response to the committee members’ demonstration of the facts.

Several members of the committee offered convincing evidence against the EPA’s claims, which often left Administrator McCarthy looking as foolish as the EPA’s scientifically unsupportable proposals. Throughout the intense questioning about climate change issues, the “Clean Power” Plan, and the Waters of the U.S. rule, McCarthy repeatedly stressed the importance of protecting the health of American children and the wellbeing of future generations.

After being questioned by Representative Ami Bera (D-Calif.) on the effects of climate on human health, McCarthy claimed that the EPA saves children from asthma and that EPA programs have reduced air pollution by 70%. Nevertheless, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) explained that while ozone levels may contribute to the occurrence of asthma, there are other factors that cause asthma including dust, mold, eggs, preservatives in foods, and pollen. He also noted that while ozone levels have gone down, asthma has continued to go up. Mr. Abraham cast serious doubt on McCarthy’s theory that reducing ozone levels will decrease childhood asthma. He finally asked McCarthy to be honest to families through accurately reporting what will cause and prevent asthma. Perhaps the EPA should do some scientific research before assuming their regulations will guarantee health improvement.

In response to McCarthy’s assertion that EPA regulations do not kill jobs, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) showed a video in which several coal-mining families told their stories of what they suffered when the Obama administration’s war on coal destroyed their jobs. Losing your job poses major health risks for families.  Mr. Palmer also explained that higher utility bills as a result of the EPA’s rules means that “households are forced to make choices that carry serious health risks” such as foregoing medical and dental care.

Speaking to a much friendlier audience at the annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, DC the next day, Administrator McCarthy returned to her claim that EPA rules do not cost jobs or harm the economy.  She said, “If someone’s making that old, tired argument that what’s good for the environment is bad for the economy, can you remind them that that’s so yesterday?”  Environment and Energy News PM reported that the audience reacted with laughter to her sarcastic question.

Post image for EPA’s PM2.5 Co-Benefits PR Trick Exposed


  • If we consider just the hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) targeted by EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, costs exceed quantifiable benefits by 1,600 times to 2,400 times–a potential PR disaster for the agency.
  • To sell the rule to Congress and the public, EPA touted the “co-benefits” of the rule’s coincidental reductions in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution.
  • In fact, EPA attributes more than 99 percent of the rule’s monetized health benefits to collateral reductions in PM2.5-related emissions.
  • But about 99 percent of those co-benefits occur in areas projected to be in attainment with the National Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM2.5.
  • To calculate the MATS rule’s PM2.5-related health benefits, EPA ascribes equal value to PM2.5 reductions in areas below and above the NAAQS.
  • That is inconsistent with the basic concept of the NAAQS program, which is to set concentration standards at a level “requisite to protect public health . . . allowing an adequate margin of safety.”
  • Once we factor in the lower probability of PM2.5 health effects in areas where exposures are already below the NAAQS, the value of the MATS rule’s co-benefits falls nearly to zero.
  • The lion’s share of EPA-estimated Clean Power Plan health benefits also disappears.
  • Unless EPA makes its impact assessments consistent with its NAAQS determinations, the agency’s benefit estimates will become increasingly overstated and less credible over time.

MATS Back in the News

EPA’s 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, which established maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants, is again in the news. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition by Michigan and 26 other states to freeze the rule.

Petitioners complained that EPA continued to implement MATS even though the Court last year deemed the rule to be unlawful. The Court held that EPA “strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating [HAP emissions from] power plants.”

Although EPA did not compare costs and benefits when deciding whether to regulate power plant HAP emissions, it did compare costs and benefits when promoting the rule to Congress and the public. EPA boasted that although MATS would cost utilities $9.6 billion to implement in 2016, it would generate $37 billion to $90 billion in health benefits in the same year (77 FR 9306).

However, EPA attributed more than 99 percent of the quantified benefits to coincidental reductions in fine particulate matter (PM2.5)–a pollutant not directly targeted by the rule and not classified as a HAP in the Clean Air Act. Specifically, EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (p. 5-93) claimed that reductions in PM2.5-related emissions would avert 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths in 2016–annual “co-benefits” valued by the agency at $36 billion to $89 billion.

A study by economist Anne Smith of NERA Economic Consulting finds that even if we accept the epidemiological literature supporting an association between mortality and PM2.5 at today’s historically-low levels (skepticism is justified), the MATS rule’s co-benefit estimates are flimflam. [click to continue…]

Post image for More Good News on Climate

Worse than we thought? Not lately. Consider some recent studies and data on hurricanes, rainfall trends, climate sensitivity, Atlantic Ocean circulation, and Antarctic temperature trends.

Major Hurricane Drought Continues

Not since Hurricane Wilma struck the Florida near Everglades City in October 2005 has a major (category 3 and larger) hurricane made landfall in the United States.

Hall and Hereid (2015), a study published last year in Geophysical Research Letters, reported that the nine-year “drought” in major U.S. hurricane landfalls from 2006 to the end of the 2014 hurricane season was “unprecedented” in the historical record, which extends back to 1851. The two scientists estimated that nine-year periods with no major U.S. hurricane strikes happen, on average, only once every 177 years.

There were also no major U.S. hurricane landfalls in 2015, extending the drought to a full ten years. “According to NASA, a stretch like this is only likely to happen once in 270 years,” CNN reports.

To be sure, our string of good luck is bound to run out eventually. The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially opens today, and NOAA says 1 to 4 major hurricanes are possible this year. Nonetheless, a 10-year hiatus in major U.S. hurricane landfalls with a probability of once every 270 years was not what Al Gore told us to expect in An Inconvenient Truth.

No Large Change in Rainfall during Past 150 Years

The most comprehensive study of global rainfall trends ever, based on 1000 weather stations in 114 countries, with each station having at least 100 years of observations, finds that “most trends over a century or longer are consistent with little precipitation change.”

Contrary to popular climate fears, over periods of a century or longer, dry areas are not becoming drier, wet areas are not becoming wetter, and deserts/jungles are not expanding or shrinking due to changes in precipitation patterns. The study, published in the Journal of Hydrology, concludes that “some caution is warranted about claiming that large changes in global precipitation have occurred during the last 150 years.” [click to continue…]