House Committee Questions Use Of Sound Science At EPA
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aptly named for its overall mission to protect human health and the environment. Science plays a critical role in EPA’s work; in remarks to the National Academy of Sciences, Gina McCarthy (Administrator, EPA) stated “science has been the backbone of the most significant advancements EPA has made in the past four decades and continues to be the engine that drives American prosperity and innovation in the future.”
This week, Administrator McCarthy answered questions for nearly three hours at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing “Ensuring Sound Science at EPA.” The hearing primarily focused on the science behind the agency’s Clean Power Plan, and questioning was highly partisan. Attendance at the hearing was lopsided as many Democrats on the committee were participating in the sit-in on the House floor to demand votes on gun control measures.
The debate over the Clean Power Plan stems from EPA’s assertion that a switch to environmentally friendly energy sources will lead to lower energy costs and the creation of jobs, with health and climate benefits totaling $55 to $93 billion per year by 2030. Conversely, a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that electricity prices could increase by about three percent from 2020 to 2025. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce interprets the EIA data to suggest that electricity costs would increase and almost 400,000 jobs would be lost in the next 15 years under the plan. Additionally, economic losses would outweigh the climate and health benefits purported by the EPA. The EIA, which models specific scenarios, caveats interpretation of its analysis by stating that its projections are based on current laws and regulations and do not take into account changing policies and future developments. Administrator McCarthy countered that the EIA claims are “exactly opposite of what we believe will happen based on our independent analysis.”
In addition to the Clean Power Plan, the administrator also fielded confrontational questions on ozone limits, water rules, and race car emissions. Chairman Smith criticized EPA’s scientific results and accused the agency of having a political agenda in line with the administration as well as a rulemaking agenda. Alternately, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) noted her support of the agency and her pleasure that the “EPA continues to rise to this challenge [of protecting the environment] and has developed regulations that are balanced and progressive.”