Choking on Suppression

In its new, industry-friendly rules on mercury regulation, the EPA claimed it couldn’t regulate toxic mercury pollution aggressively because the cost to the power plant industry would far exceed the public health payoff. The health benefits from regulating mercury would only be worth about $50 million a year, they shrugged, while it would cost the industry $750 million a year to stop polluting.

It’s not true. Even worse, the EPA knew that and hid the evidence.

The Washington Post reports today the EPA stripped from its report all references to a Harvard University study — co-authored by an EPA scientist, peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists and paid for by the EPA — which came to a scientific conclusion totally opposite to the one the EPA was politically interested in finding. The Harvard study proved the health benefit to regulating mercury poisoning would be 100 times greater than the EPA said and would save nearly $5 billion a year through reduced neurological and cardiac harm. Recognizing that study would have thrown a giant wrench in the push for the pro-industry rules favored by the Bush administration and industry groups, so it was out.

As jaw-droppingly outrageous as this is, it’s just par for the course for this White House. The Bush administration has made a deadly habit of supressing scientific findings that don’t go along with their ideological conclusions, regardless of the harm to the public. And the EPA has been only too willing to aid and abet their plans:

In the days after the collapse of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks, a top federal scientist “warned in a strongly worded memo against the quick reoccupation of buildings in lower Manhattan because of possible dangers from asbestos and other toxic materials.” A draft EPA press release reflected this finding, saying the asbestos levels were three times higher than national standards. The White House pressured the EPA to repress these findings and to send a memo on Sept. 17, 2001 ,that dangerously declared, “their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe.”

In 2003, the White House gutted an EPA report on the dangers of global warming. The administration stripped out all language about the dangers and the causes of global warming. According to an internal EPA memorandum circulated at the time, after the White House supressed these findings, the section “no longer accurately represent[ed] scientific consensus on climate change.”