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Citizens for a Sound Economy, a consumer watchdog organization, was "saddened" to be singled out for attack Thursday by the Environmental Working Group, a close Environmental Protection Agency ally.
"It's clear that the EPA is losing the debate because they didn't do their homework," said Paul Beckner, president of CSE. "The EPA has dodged answering questions about the serious lack of science behind the proposed new air quality standards."
"EPA commissioner Carol Browner is awfully fond of saying that the standards will only affect large industry. But what she is not telling the American people is that those costs will be transferred to the American people in the form of higher utility bills, higher transportation costs and higher prices for consumer goods," said Beckner.
The Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation predicted that the changes will cost American consumers up to $120 billion annually. "That figure represents roughly $1,600 a year for a typical family of four. That's far from the $8.5 billion the EPA told us it would cost," he said.
Beckner criticized shifting EPA claims that the new standards would provide health benefits. "In November, the EPA told us the standards would save 40,000 Americans. In February, that number shrank to 20,000. Now they're claiming 15,000." A study by Kay Jones, Ph.D., the Carter Administration's top air quality advisor, indicates the figure is below 1,000. To date, the EPA has never addressed the specifics of the study.
The EPA based its mortality figures on an American Cancer Society study, which the EPA has refused to release to the public. "I challenge the EPA to stop hiding its taxpayer-financed study from the public and come clean," Beckner said. "Americans are being asked to bear $120 billion in higher costs for no demonstrable health benefit."
"It's disappointing that the debate has degenerated into name-calling on such an important issue," Beckner said. "The real focus ought to be on the science. Congress should send the EPA back to the drawing board to collect valid data before it seeks to impose new air quality standards," he said. According to Beckner, his organization is not alone in its concern. He cited various letters to the Administration in which 86 Democratic and 144 Republicans expressed serious reservations about the EPA's proposed standards. Also cited were opposing comments from various officials from within the White House itself.