U.S. to rely more on scientists for air rules: EPA

NEW YORK Thu May 21, 2009 2:47pm EDT

An international passenger plane approaches Sydney airport April 28, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

An international passenger plane approaches Sydney airport April 28, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Wimborne

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government will reverse a Bush administration policy and increase the role of scientists in setting air standards for criteria pollutants harmful to human health, Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said on Thursday.

Jackson said the EPA will reinstate the role of a policy document called a "staff paper" written by agency scientists that contains analyses of options for the administrator to consider when setting air standards.

The Bush administration had replaced the staff paper process with a notice of proposed rule-making outlining options for air rules in the Federal Register, which environmentalists had long complained increased the role of political appointees early in the decision-making process.

"These changes will help us bring a greater rigor and openness to our standard-setting process and improve the scientific basis for our standards," Jackson said in a release.

The move was in line with President Barack Obama's pledge to increase the role of science in regulating pollutants.

The six "criteria" pollutants, which originate from engines and big industry, are particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

Environmentalists praised the move. "Now the EPA once again will fully utilize its scientists in setting air pollution standards," said Francesca Grifo, the director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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