The Lives Greenies Save
Internal government documents obtained by NPR indicate that the Environmental Protection Agency could have saved thousands of lives each year if it set a stricter standard for soot in the air we breathe.
Last month, when EPA administrator Steven Johnson set a new standard for how much soot is safe to breathe, he rejected EPA’s scientific advisors recommendation to make it tougher. A draft EPA analysis shows that if he had taken their advice, the stricter standard would have saved about twice as many lives each year.
John Walke from the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council says the documents show how deadly Johnson’s decision will be for Americans.
“What these explosive charts reveal is that by refusing to strengthen our air quality protections,” Walke said, “EPA’s political boss sacrificed the lives of five to 10,000 Americans each year, who will now die from air pollution related strokes and heart and lung disease.”
Walke provided the documents to NPR. A Bush administration official confirmed their authenticity.
The documents show estimates of how many lives would be saved by the new soot standard — and how many more would have been saved by the stricter standard recommended by the science advisors.
In estimates from 12 scientists who had been hand=picked by the EPA, all agreed that more lives would be saved if the EPA had chosen a stricter standard. Most of them put that number at more than 4,000.
Assuming that the soot regs would have saved 4,000 lives a year (and numbers like that are always questionable), we must ask, "Whose lives, and for what?" The answer is the the lives of the very sick, whose systems are weakened to the point that even a tiny bit more soot in the air would be too much. And almost certainly, the 4,000 people we save this year will die next year.
That's not the image the NRDC and other Greenies want. They want us to think of our lovely sons and daughters, one day skipping merrily, the next day cut down by Demon Soot. But if there really are 4,000, it's 4,000 Great Aunt Tillies and Great Uncle Normans, already choked from emphysema they brought on themselves with their two-pack-a-day habits.
Of course, I'd like Tillie and Norman to live another year -- they're great people, after all. But it won't be a great year for them. The last year of a slow death may give you more time to be with loved ones, but it won't be a comfortable or productive year for anyone but the health care industry, which will profit well from them before shipping their bodies off to the waiting mortician.
So welcome to the world of environmental reporting, where every industrial, man-made thing is a threat, and each of them takes four or seven or two years off our lives.
The one thing they will not report is this: Despite all those deducted years, we continue to live longer, healthier, better lives -- soot or no soot.