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Two Utahns have stake in pollution health data fight
Environment » Is congressional inquiry into pollution-health studies after truth or partisan gain?

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In an article earlier this month, blogger Steve Milloy of JunkScience.com attacked Pope and his work in an article titled: "EPA-funded researcher puts up smokescreen to evade subpoena on EPA ‘secret science.’ " In it, Milloy calls the BYU researcher "simply a scoundrel" and deems any assertions about the privacy of the raw data "nonsense."

"Pope is t[r]ying [h]is hardest to avoid being exposed to the world as a junk scientist of the highest order," Milloy wrote. "If his research was any good, why would he be trying so hard to hide his data?"

At a glance

More on air pollution science

C. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University economist whose research on the air pollution-and-health link is seminal, gave a short history of air pollution research this spring at the University of Utah. Here’s a link: http://stream.utah.edu/m/dp/frame.php?f=aa1124c99a69e6102525.

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Pope declined to respond to "name-calling." But the blogger’s jabs echo criticisms by Stewart and Smith, who suggested that EPA’s use of the studies "borders on scientific misconduct" and urged the agency to stop using them.

"We are concerned that EPA’s reluctance to respond to congressional requests," they wrote in the July 22 letter to EPA, "or to obtain and assess the data to assure the legitimacy of claimed benefits may reflect weaknesses in the studies."

Nothing personal » But Stewart says there’s an important distinction between what the congressional panel is attempting and the aim of partisan bloggers.

"The committee’s concerns have nothing to do with Dr. Pope or any other single scientist. To suggest that any individual scientist is the objective of the subpoena completely misses the point," he said in his email. "My only concern is with the EPA’s previous refusal to grant access to the data produced by taxpayer-funded research."

While Pope has had federal grants to help with his research, the raw data were gathered by and remain the property of private institutions, Harvard University and the American Cancer Society, Pope said.

For Barry Bickmore, a BYU geochemist, the attacks on air-pollution science are the latest examples of "nutty beliefs" about scientific issues from the GOP.

Bickmore, who takes on "climate deniers" in his Climate Asylum blog, said this controversy is the latest example of the manufacturing of uncertainty to accomplish political aims, just as politicians have done in the past to discredit the science surrounding secondhand smoke and the addictiveness of nicotine.

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"This is just par for the course," he said. "This is the same thing going on — some of the same people, too."

John Walke, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, had harsher words, calling the science committee’s recent actions, "a political vendetta" filled with "shocking falsehoods."

"Their all-too-transparent agenda is to attack clean-air health safeguards that are projected to save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and heart attacks annually," he wrote in a blog post, "while delivering health benefits to Americans that outweigh costs to polluters by tens of billions of dollars."


Twitter: @judyfutah

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