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ALA State of the Air Report Immediately Discredited By Regulators, Experts


Five Things to Know about the American Lung Associations Deceptive State of the Air Report

By Karen Kerrigan

The American Lung Association (ALA) just released its annual State of the Air report for 2016, claiming over 50 percent of Americans are breathing “unhealthy air.”  For those familiar with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its continuous blitzkrieg of onerous air regulations, the ALA report has become something of an annual ritual.  Its annual State of the Air report is perpetually used to boost the agency and its regulatory agenda at the expense of states and is the most oft-cited “evidence” that EPA needs to further tighten its already stringent regulations. Immediately upon the release of its annual State of the Air report, state air regulators, columnists, and leading health experts slammed the report as “propaganda.” Over the years, the ALA report has lost credibility due largely to its unabashed alignment with the Obama Administration and its EPA.

However, before you give into the hype and purchase a face mask and oxygen tank, here are five things you need to know about ALA’s 2016 State of the Air report.

  1. State Air Regulators from across the U.S. have discredited the ALA report.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) thoroughly debunks ALA’s State of the Air report in its report, “The States’ View of the Air,” noting that “Air quality across the nation has improved over the past ten years or more.”  Echoing Indiana’s concerns, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says the report uses old data and that the district is touting its best air year in its more than 40 years of existence. Seyed Sadredin, who testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last Thursday, described the group’s report as “an elementary school” or “bumper sticker” characterization of the Valley’s air quality issues.  Additionally, Lynne Liddington, director of air quality management in Knox County, Tennessee, takes the ALA report to task.  According to Liddington, Knox County, which ALA assigned an “F” in air quality, is “meeting all of the EPA standards.”  The Maryland Dept. of Environment is also on record noting concerns with the ALA report.

  1. Columnists and Editorial Boards are critical of ALA’s deceptive tactics.

Lois Henry, of Bakersfield.com issued a stinging rebuke of the 2016 State of the Air report: “As a piece of good, old-fashioned propaganda, though, I say, the report is a real humdinger. Seriously, the Soviets could not have done better back in the day.”  After the 2015 ALA report, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette accused the ALA of using “statistical malpractice” to create a “bogus” report card.   In Ohio, a local health official wrote an op-ed to the Cincinnati Enquirer to correct the record. “Everyone should take a deep breath and know that our air has dramatically improved and continues to get better.” Finally, a Denver Post columnist called ALA’s 2015 report “brazenly misleading” and the state’s top air quality regulator, pushing back against ALA’s claims, said “it makes our jobs harder when positive trends are being spun the exact opposite way.” Moreover, the Post’s editorial board sharply rebuked the ALA and others for threatening Colorado’s economy with a “regulatory straitjacket” that “would have set up the state for long-term failure.”

  1. The ALA employs a suspect methodology – calling air “unhealthy” that the EPA labels as compliant with current EPA regulations.

In its fine print, ALA concedes its methodology for assigning grades averages Air Quality Index figures and monitoring data from 2012 through 2014, and then it applies 2015 air quality standards to that data.  Many states and regions have made significant improvements since 2014 that the ALA report does not take into account.  Additionally, the ALA measures this data against a standard that did not exist at the time.  Using these arbitrary measurements, ALA sows confusion and undermines the progress of states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where their population centers finally reached attainment status after years of hard work.  Moreover, many regions, like Denver, Colorado, are unable to meet the 2015 standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) due to background ozone that is beyond their control.  That’s why bipartisan elected officials, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D), have called on the EPA to suspend the new standard.

  1. The ALA haphazardly assigns “weights” to a region’s air quality, without any health-based justification for their methodology.

ALA explains that its system “assigned weighting factors to each category of the Air Quality Index (AQI). The number of orange days experienced by each county received a factor of 1; red days, a factor of 1.5; purple days, a factor of 2; and maroon days, a factor of 2.5.” However, the AQI is not a measurement of ozone pollution.  Rather as Tennessee air regulator Liddington explains, these are not actual measures of ozone, but are “alerts” that “err on the side of caution” and aren’t accurate measures of ozone levels.  Moreover, ALA doesn’t offer a shred of evidence explaining why a “maroon day” is 2.5 times worse than a so-called “orange” day.   Such weight assignments significantly skew state’s grades.

  1. The quality of ALA’s analysis is so poor, some honest folks within the EPA have even criticized the ALA for “taking a hodge podge of statistics” in creating its grades.

In a 2015 interview, David Bryan, an EPA spokesman from region seven said clearly, “the EPA has nothing to do with that report.” According to Bryan, the ALA report “takes a hodge podge of statistics” in creating its grades. This is a startling assessment given that the agency has provided ALA millions of dollars in grants over the past decade.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council). The Center for Regulatory Solutions is a project of the Council.