Feb. 7, 2005 – An internal investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency found that the EPA based its recent draft mercury regulations not on scientific evidence, but on a predetermined, politically motivated outcome. According to the Agencyâ€™s inspector general, EPA administrators decided on a final mercury emission standard and then worked backwards to develop rules that would lead to that outcome.
The inspector further said that the standards were based on the Bush administrationâ€™s Clear Skies initiative, environmental legislation meant to undermine the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act.
EPA officials denied that their draft standards were influenced by political considerations or anything other than science. Nevertheless, two EPA staff members, who spoke to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, said that they had experienced strong political pressure to come out with standards that would fit the administrationâ€™s desired outcome.
"I don't think anyone has ever seen as much political influence in the development of a rule as we saw in this rule," one of the whistleblowers told the Post. "Everything about this rule was decided at a political levelâ€¦ The political level made the decisions, and the staff did what they were told."
The other added: "Maybe we would have come to the same conclusion [anyway], but we didn't necessarily look at the other optionsâ€¦ We were driven by one option."
The inspector generalâ€™s report found that the only two possibilities considered by the Agency in developing the rules were slanted in order to make the "cap-and-trade" approach to regulation look better than placing emissions caps on every plant. The cap-and-trade method -- which sets industry-wide goals and then allows low-polluting companies to sell pollution credits to high polluting firms -- has been heavily condemned by environmentalists because it neglects to cut down pollution in all geographical areas.