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Union-Tribune Editorial: Air board still scandalous!

Air board still scandalous
Contrary evidence on diesel rules seems to be ignored

By Union-Tribune Editorial Board,

Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

In December 2008, this editorial page reported that Hien Tran – the lead California Air Resources Board scientist on a study used to justify sweeping, costly new rules on diesel emissions – had lied about his academic credentials. The scandal seemed to unfold in slow motion. Finally, 10 months later, two members of the air board – Fresno cardiologist John Telles and San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts – denounced the regulatory agency for not disclosing Tran’s dishonesty before the vote to adopt diesel rules based on his work. This helped prompt the suspension of the rules.

Now, 10 more months have passed, and something extremely curious is unfolding.

Contrary to promises made by air board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, the accuracy of Tran’s central premise – that PM2.5 (tiny soot particles from exhaust, smoke and dust) causes thousands of premature deaths each year in California – has been found wanting. In February, a CARB-commissioned outside study was released that found no evidence for his claim. This corroborated independent scientists who said Tran’s theory was flawed because it was based on studies from Eastern states, where sulfates are common and may interact with PM2.5 to harmful effect.

Yet this finding doesn’t seem to have had any effect on regulators, who have informally made clear to industry groups that they still want to impose Tran’s rules even though they will bankrupt hundreds of small businesses that can’t afford expensive new engines or engine retrofits.

This isn’t right. Roberts’ spokesman said Friday that the supervisor plans to raise questions at a board meeting next week about the air board staff’s reaction to the contrary evidence. In disturbing ways, the reaction parallels the staff’s reaction to confirmation of Tran’s deceit and its decision to pursue a cover-up. It may be time for Telles and Roberts to give another lecture to Nichols on honesty and professionalism.

...and a weak responce from James Goldstene, the Executive Director of CARB

Note: James Goldstene has no science background--only a degree in "Government".  His bio is here.

Letters: California Air Resources Board responds

Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

The July 17th Union-Tribune editorial (“Air board still scandalous”) repeats discredited claims that the health science related to fine particles emitted from diesel-fueled engines and other sources is too uncertain to support the California Air Resources Board’s tough emissions limits.

To the contrary: Last month, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency issued a report approved by the federal Clean Air Act Scientific Advisory Committee concluding that there is a causal relationship between exposure to these fine particles (known as PM2.5) and premature death, and includes estimates of premature deaths linked to PM2.5 in cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles and Fresno. The report also provides a new factor for estimating premature deaths associated with PM2.5 that the ARB will rely on going forward.

The U.S. EPA and its Clean Air Act Scientific Advisory Committee considered evidence from multiple peer-reviewed studies, including studies pointing to plausible biological mechanisms for cardiovascular deaths associated with PM2.5. A 2009 peer-reviewed American Cancer Society study, which followed nearly half a million people in 116 cities, found premature death linked to PM2.5 – including in Los Angeles. While the relative proportion of PM2.5 constituents can vary, California cities have a mix of pollutants quite similar to that found in other cities.

Diesel defenders cite a handful of California-specific studies that failed to find PM2.5 particles as a health hazard in California but ignore the weight of evidence from multiple studies. While the ARB-commissioned study referenced in the editorial did not produce results identical to the American Cancer Society study, preliminary findings show a correlation between death from heart disease and exposure to PM2.5. Other California studies are consistent with the national studies. These issues were expressly discussed and debated in a public symposium conducted by CARB in February of this year.

Peer-reviewed studies have always been the source of health findings cited in CARB reports. It’s time to recognize that CARB has a legal obligation to reduce PM 2.5 emissions to meet federal air quality standards by the 2014 deadline, and that the science and the health basis for that mandate is as strong as ever.

Executive Officer California Air Resources Board

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