Scientist Calls EPA Air Quality Rules "Grossly in 'Error' as Chariman Combest Calls for more Accurate Science

Apr 23, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Testifying before a key house subcommittee, a Texas agricultural engineer and air quality expert today said the Enviornmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter is "grossly in error", based on faulty data, and should be withdrawn.

On November 27, 1996, EPA proposed new ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter, which EPA says are necessary to meet the Clean Air Act's requirement that air pollution not adversely affect public health. If adopted as proposed, the new standards would substantially increase the number of areas not attaining the Act's air quality standards and magnify the difficulties faced by non-attainment areas.

The witness, Dr. Calvin Parnell, a Professor of Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University and member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Task Force on Air Quality, testified today before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research, chaired by Rep. Larry Combest (R-TX).

Parnell testified that data on sources of particulate emissions suggesting that 34% of fine particulate matter can be attributed to agriculture and forestry is "grossly in error."

"The data used to develop this inventory was based on erroneous emission factors published by EPA for cattle feed yards, feed mills, grain elevators and dust from farmers' field operations. Had EPA and their contractors had agricultural engineers participating in the studies that resulted in the erroneous emission factors…we would not be faced with the difficult task of convincing EPA that the numbers need to be changed today," Parnell testified.

"The science employed in developing this rule is not up to par, and I'm concerned that farmers could bear the brunt of a bad policy based on equally bad science," Combest said. "These scientists who know agriculture told us today that EPA really has the cart before the horse. We don't have the research yet to know whether we can actually attain these standards, how much it will cost the agriculture industry and the consuming public, and how much agricultural activity actually contributes to air pollution problems."

"It is imperative that any decisions that are made on air quality standards be substantiated by sound science. According to much of the testimony we heard today, it appears that EPA's proposed standards do not reflect the science that is available. This committee must continue its oversight authority to ensure that a fair and justifiable standard is ultimately set," said Rep. Cal Dooley (D-CA), the Subcommittee's Ranking Democrat.

Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District, which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and the Permian Basin. Dooley represents California's 20th Congressional District.

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