EPA’s new anti-science rule is all about promoting pollution (plus radiation!)

  • Published on September 5th, 2018

The EPA proposal to censor the science used to inform regulations is, to put it mildly, not popular. In addition to science groups, former EPA administrators, the EPA’s science advisory board, it turns out that even Trump’s own Department of Defense criticized the proposal in its public comment.

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Much of the scrutiny of the rule focused on how it came straight from the tobacco industry, via former tobacco lobbyist and coal executive Steve Milloy. But on Monday, Pat Michaels at the CATO institute as brought another troubling aspect of the rule to our attention (though he thinks it’s wonderful).

And unsurprisingly, it has Milloy’s fingerprints all over it.

In his post, Michaels (who admitted in 2010 that 40% of his funding comes from oil) points out the big ramifications of an otherwise banal sounding passage of the proposed rule: “EPA should also incorporate the concept of model uncertainty when needed as a default to optimize dose risk estimation based on major competing models, including linear, threshold, U-shaped, J-shaped and bell-shaped models.”

What does that mean? Well, it could mean a huge change in how the EPA regulates radiation and small particulate pollution PM2.5, that latter of which results from burning fossil fuels.

As we explained back in June, the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model holds that there is no safe level of radiation or carcinogens because it only takes one errant molecule passing through a cell to kick off the malignant chain reaction known as cancer. Then, as a person is exposed to higher levels, their risk of cancer increases linearly. There is some legitimate scientific debate around the issue, but the bulk of LNT criticism, at least according to Michaels, is the result of one person: Ed Calabrese. Calabrese, Michaels points out, is his colleague and adjunct “scholar” at CATO. While Michaels mentions this to brag, for the rest of us it’s a clear sign that Calabrese is hardly an unbiased and trustworthy source for a very complicated scientific situation.

People who are funded by polluters like those at CATO and people like Steve Milloy, who have made a career out of defending cancer-causing products like tobacco or coal, really don’t like the LNT model, which stipulates that there’s no safe level of pollution from the product that pays their salary. But for those who would rather be safe than tumor-laden, it’s a prudent way to limit the public’s exposure to harmful pollutants.

Would the EPA, which is ostensibly directed to protect the public from pollution, ever discard the LNT model in favor of one that lets polluters off easy? Or even, in the case of the J-shaped model Calabrese favors, suggests that small amounts of radiation and pollution is good for you?

Well, we know Milloy opposes LNT because it’s all over his blog, and since he claims to have written the science portion of the EPA transition guide, it seems pretty clear that this is his handiwork. The only question, then, is if courts will uphold the EPA’s new rules, which are clearly written to benefit Milloy’s polluters at the expense of public health.

And if the courts do allow it, will the public?

Will Americans let the EPA tell us that well actually, a little pollution is good for you?

Because apparently there’s no threshold for how low Trump’s EPA will go.

(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Cartoon by Adam Zygus at Buffalo News)

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