Posted by: Steven M. Taber | March 17, 2008

Did the White House Meddle with the Secondary Ozone Standard? You Decide.

The Washington Post reported last week that the White House interfered with the promulgation of the secondary standard for ozone.  According to the Washington Post “EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA’s scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday [March 11, 2008] ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.”

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Susan E. Dudley, states:

“The President has concluded that, consistent with Administration policy, added protection should be afforded to public welfare by strengthening the secondary ozone standard and setting it to be identical to the new primary standard, the approach adopted when ozone standards were last promulgated. This policy thus recognizes the Administrator’s judgment that the secondary standard needs to be adjusted to provide increased protection to public welfare and avoids setting a standard lower or higher than is necessary.”

  • Although the letter is dated “March 13, 2008″ the top fax line indicates that it was sent on March 11, 2008 at 3:21 p.m. – the day before the ozone standard was announced. There is also a fax line indicating that the letter was faxed on March 12, 2008 as well, but without the EPA fax cover page. 
  • It is not clear in the second sentence of the quote which “administrator” Ms. Dudley was referring to, the OMB Administrator or the EPA Administrator.
  • While setting the secondary ozone standard to be identical with the primary standard would “strengthen” it, as compared to the prior standard, setting it to be identical would be weaker than suggested by the EPA staff and the Science Advisory Board.

The next morning, the same day the new ozone standard was announced, Karen Martin, the EPA official who received the letter on March 11, 2008, sent an e-mail to EPA headquarters with a new red-lined version of the standard, which deleted the stronger secondary standard and set the secondary standard to be the same as the primary standard.

Merely a coincidence that the changes requested by the “President” were made? You decide for yourself. Administrator Johnson stated emphatically that he “made the decision” to change the secondary ozone standard at the last minute.

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Responses

  1. For a behind-the-scenes look into some of the dirty details behind the President’s involvement here, check out my blog posting at http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jwalke/science_decider_in_chief.html.


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