Browner Wrong on ‘Barbecues, Lawnmowers, Fireworks’

Carol Browner, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is wrong in claiming that her agency’s proposal to impose more restrictive standards on air quality is “not about outdoor barbecues or lawnmowers” or “whether we can have fireworks on the Fourth of July,” according to Dr. Wayne Brough, director of research at Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE).

Ms. Browner made her assertions during an appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday. Her claims are a response to radio commercials sponsored by CSE. In one commercial, it is noted that “these new regulations would drive up the price of cars, force people into car pooling, maybe even end up banning things like barbecue grills and lawnmowers.” A second commercial notes “fireworks cause the very kind of emissions that would be prohibited under the government’s proposed new regulations.”

Dr. Brough says Ms. Browner’s testimony is wrong, and that both statements made in the CSE commercials are accurate. “In fact, an official spokesperson for Ms. Browner acknowledged in a Washington Post story on January 24, and I quote, ‘that it’s theoretically possible that a state could restrict activities like barbecuing to comply with the new federal standards.'” Dr. Brough points out that commercial barbecues are already outlawed in some southern California communities, “and if jurisdictions don’t have enough other sources of particulate matter to reduce, then who’s to say barbecues won’t be on some bureaucrat’s list of banned behavior?”

And Dr. Brough notes the EPA’s own Science Advisory Committee acknowledged the effects of major fireworks displays. “On May 17, in a meeting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the committee heard about the EPA’s own documentation of a display of fireworks that set off pollution monitors in St. Louis. Since the EPA’s new proposal has a kind of ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out (of compliance)’ rule, any big Fourth of July fireworks display could end up being one strike. It is not hard to comprehend that communities could very well sacrifice that activity so as to avoid banning something else,” says Dr. Brough.

Dr. Brough believes Ms. Browner wants her claims about the health benefits derived from the new regulations to be non-debatable. But he wants Americans to think about those claims — that current standards leave too many children and elderly at risk — made by Ms. Browner and supporters of more regulation. Says Dr. Brough, “In her testimony, she said, ‘You have a cause and you have an effect — which is hospitalizations and death.’ Yet she never answered the simple question: if our air is 30-percent cleaner than it was 25 years ago, which the EPA itself admits, then why are hospitalizations increasing? Why is a good thing having a bad effect? Obviously EPA’s science is missing something, and that’s why Congress should step in and demand more study before new standards are set and implemented. To rush through a whole new set of one-size-fits-all regulations without definitive proof of the proposed rules’ health impact may be the wrong prescription for the very people we all want to help.”