First up is an byline-less editorial that could easily pass for Robyn Blumner's work.
Titled "Bush fights science again, and we all lose," it engages in typically Blumnerian confusion about what constitutes science and combines that ignorance with a fixation on attacking Bush.
Under legal pressure to enforce the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency tightened the ozone limit from the current 84 parts per billion to 75 ppb. The new standard would quadruple the number of counties out of compliance on smog (including the Tampa Bay area) and reduce illness and deaths related to that pollution.
So far, so good. Except EPA administrator Stephen Johnson did two things that undermined the effort. First, he ruled against his own scientific advisers, who wanted to set the allowable ozone level even lower — between 60 ppb and 70 ppb. Once again the administration showed its contempt for science.
The disinformation in this piece is staggering. First, compare a story from Reuters that appears to deal with the lawsuit mentioned in the editorial:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency toughened standards for ozone pollution on Wednesday, but these new requirements are more lax than the agency's own scientists recommended.
Stephen Johnson, the agency's chief, said he complied with the Clean Air Act and with scientific data in setting the new ozone standard at 75 parts per billion in ambient air in the United States. The previous standard was 80 parts per billion.
The Times has 84 parts per billion while the Reuters story mentioned 80 ppb as the standard. Reuters, from what I can tell, is the more technically correct. Compliance with the 80ppb standard is measured according to 84 ppb. No, I'm not kidding.
The U.S. EPA’s primary (for health protection) and secondary (for environmental and welfare protection) 8-hr ozone standards both are 80 ppb. In determining attainment and nonattainment, however, the U.S. EPA must use rounding. As a result, we consider ozone values ≤84 ppb as meeting the standard.Other than quibbling over the numbers, what's my problem with the editorial?
(Hubbell, Hallberg, McCubbin & Post)
First, the editorial is blindly one-sided. The Heritage Foundation has supplied a critique of the proposed 70-75 ppb standard that offers much more information than the Times ("In the know") editorial. Here's a taste of the conclusion:
It is appropriate for the EPA to consider the public health risks associated with ground-level ozone. However, the EPA should consider the tradeoffs involved in making the current standard stricter. Like reducing the speed limit to 15 miles per hour, it might save more lives but would come with extremely high economic costs.Second, the charge that the EPA's decision amounts to fighting science displays either a lack of understanding of science or a tendency toward misleadingly hyperbolic rhetoric--and either should be a concern coming from the editorial board of a newspaper calling itself one of the 10 best in the nation.
Science makes no prescriptive statements. Prescriptive statements fall outside the domain of science, which observes nature and tries to provide an understanding of nature based on the development of a system of laws that allow for accurate predictions. As such, it is complete nonsense to say that the administration is fighting science. It's fair to say that the administration did not accept the advice of the EPA's scientists, but that should only cause an outcry if the cost/benefit analysis is clear-cut in favor of the full reduction. The Heritage Foundation addressed the cost/benefit analysis. The St. Petersburg Times engaged in hysterical rhetoric without addressing the cost/benefit analysis.
If The St. Peterburg Times is one of the 10 best newspapers in the United States then the editorial board either has little to do with it or else we're all in a heap of trouble.