NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Putting Activists Above Science at the EPA

May 12, 1999

A 1996 drinking-water law was supposed to make sound science the top priority of regulators. But critics charge that Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats are paying more attention to the demands of environment activists.

  • At the urging of scientists, the EPA in 1998 set the goal for safe chloroform levels in tap water at 300 parts per billion.
  • Scientists set chloroform limits at an exposure level that is 1,000 times lower than the amount that's known to cause human health problems.
  • But the EPA began to waffle after the Natural Resources Defense Council and other activist groups called for the goal to be set at zero.
  • Last December, the EPA caved in and set the goal at zero.

A chlorine industry lawsuit against the EPA is expected to be heard later this year.

Meanwhile, the issue of minuscule amounts of naturally-occurring arsenic in water is emerging. EPA must propose an arsenic rule by Jan. 1, 2000 and finalize it in one year. While the American Water Works Association Research Foundation has funded research on arsenic effects to the tune of $6 million, the EPA has dragged its feet and even requested Congress to cut its research budget.

Experts say that science is jeopardized when government research is allowed to lag behind regulatory deadlines -- in short, an Alice-in-Wonderland, "off with his head, let the trial begin" approach.

Source: Daniel J. Murphy, "Is EPA's Water Policy All Wet?" Investor's Business Daily, May 12, 1999.


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