NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA Must Reveal Air Quality Data

November 11, 1998

For two years, the Environmental Protection Agency has refused to release data from a major study on public health. Now, thanks to an obscure provision in the 1999 federal budget law, they'll have to.

  • In 1996, EPA asked for regulations to reduce smog and particulate matter.
  • Reducing emissions to desired levels could cost taxpayers more than $60 billion yearly according to the government's own estimates.
  • To justify the expense, EPA had to show particulates represent a threat to public health.

EPA claimed it had evidence that soot particles killed people, thanks to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. But EPA wouldn't release the study results, nor would the study's director, Dr. Joel Schwartz, claiming a confidentiality agreement with the participants. Critics wondered why EPA couldn't simply release the air quality measurements. The agency finally announced it would give the data to an independent panel to investigate it. That was a year ago.

EPA's reticence, critics believe, finally tired Congress' patience, and the provision was added to the spending bill. Now, government agencies will have to release federally funded research data to anyone who requests it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Source: James Freeman, "Congress Closes the Case of the Missing Data," Investor's Business Daily, November 11, 1998.


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