May 13, 2004

Senators Hail EPA Inspector General's Decision to Review Administration's Mercury Rule

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sens. Jim Jeffords, I -Vt., Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Lieberman, D-Ct., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY., Barbara Boxer, D-Ca., Tom Carper, D-De., and Ron Wyden, D-Or., today hailed the decision by the EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley to review the process in which EPA formulated its December proposed rule to regulate mercury emissions from electric utilities.In an April 12 letter, the seven Senators asked the Inspector General to examine serious concerns with how the EPA prepared its proposed rule, including: 1) agency failure to perform an analysis on a range of regulatory options, which is required by a standing Executive Order; 2) the appearance of language scrubbing by interagency reviewer(s) that downplays the scientific evidence about the hazards of mercury pollution; and 3) the use of verbatim or very similar language seen in industry documents.Jeffords, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, "I expect the Inspector General's review will be comprehensive and will help us understand how and why this proposed rule came to look as it does. Congress and the public need to know whether EPA's rulemaking process can be trusted to put the public's health first. We must be able to rely on the federal government to serve and protect the public, not just the special interests."Leahy said, "This review is a major breakthrough that can help us put the public's interest back into this equation. It will help us comb through the rhetoric and sort through the spin the Administration uses in trying to sell its watered-down mercury proposal. The key questions are how and why the Administration ignored its own science to let the biggest polluters ghostwrite its mercury plan."Lieberman said, "I am very encouraged that the Inspector General has undertaken an inquiry into the mercury rule. Every time there has been a new revelation about this mercury rule, the odor surrounding it gets stronger. Something seems to have gone very wrong at the top of EPA's air division, and it is the Inspector General's responsibility to dig out the truth."Clinton said, "The public deserves to know how and why the Bush Administration apparently ignored science and gave industry undue influence in developing a rule that does not protect public health. I am pleased the inspector general has agreed to review this very serious matter."Boxer said, "I regret that we had to go to the Inspector General to get answers, but the Administration has repeatedly stalled when it comes to regulating mercury emissions. We need to know if the EPA cut corners, ignored science or otherwise catered to special interests in industry to weaken protections against mercury poisoning."Carper said, "The questions we raised about how the Bush administration devised its flawed mercury rule deserve a comprehensive internal inquiry, and that's what the EPA's inspector general has decided to do. If the rule was unduly influenced by outside interests, the American people need to know. My hope is that this review - whatever its findings - will help lead us eventually to lower levels of mercury and fewer women and children being put at risk."Wyden said, ""Withholding information from Congress, and using inside industry information to shape policies critical to public health and the environment, is dangerous to the American people. The EPA needs to be more accountable to Congress and to all Americans. This review by the Inspector General is a positive first step toward restoring full credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency."