A report released this week by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works examined former EPA employee John Beale and his role in the creation of the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The report revealed that at the time the NAAQS was being drafted by the EPA, “some officials making critical important policy decisions were not remotely qualified…and in at least one case – EPA decision making was delegated to a now convicted felon and con artist, John Beale.”

The National Ambient Air Quality Standard regulates the release of particulate matter into the air and is one of the most controversial regulations ever put forth by the EPA. The NAAQS allowed for a massive expansion of EPA control over the American economy.

The NAAQS was the brain child of Robert Brenner and convicted con artist Jon Beale, inherently raising questions as to the entire authenticity of the NAAQS. The report found multiple problems behind Beale’s pivotal role in the creation of the NAAQS. The report found evidence of:  (1) problems with the integrity of the research behind the NAAQS; (2) self-serving motivation behind its creation; and (3) an overall lack of legislative or scientific experience on the part of Beale – the primary figure behind the NAAQS’s creation. 

Beale’s Lack of Experience

It must first be understood that John Beale was at no point qualified to draft EPA regulations, especially regulations as far reaching as the NAAQS. The committee’s report found Beale came to work at the EPA through his best friend John Brenner who hired Beale.

Brenner hired Beale despite the fact that Beale had absolutely “no legislative or environmental policy experience and [previously] wandered between jobs at a small-town law firm, a political campaign, and an apple farm.” The report even found that “Beale himself admitted that he had no environmental experience.” Brenner hired Beale at a position commonly reserved to those with years of legislative and environmental experience. The position was also one of the highest paying positions for general service employees. Thanks to Brenner’s influence, Beale’s role in the EPA quickly grew to the point where he became the “lead EPA official for one of the most controversial and far reaching regulations ever issued” despite his complete lack of experience.

Beale’s Motivation Behind the Creation of the NAAQS

The committee’s report further found that Beale’s primary motivation behind the creation of the NAAQS was not the preservation of the environment, air quality or human health, but his own self-interest. 

“Evidence suggests that Beale used the NAAQS as a vehicle for his own self-aggrandizement and rose above reporting just to Brenner and began to work alongside Mary Nichols, the Assistant (AA) for OAR at the time, as well as then Administrator Carol Browner.” 

Once Beale had influence over Nichols (the Assistant Administrator) and Browner (the EPA Administrator), there was no stopping him from passing the NAAQS, not even a complete lack of scientific basis and support.

The NAAQS is Based on a Lack of Scientific Integrity and Understanding

The report further found that not only was the NAAQS developed by Beale whose only legislative qualification was an “unpaid undergraduate internship for Senator John Tunney,” but also that Beale based his creation of the NAAQS on “a distinct lack of scientific understanding of the integrity of the underlying data.”

The EPA relied on two studies presented by Beale in approving the NAAQS that remain controversial: The Harvard “Six Cities” and American Cancer Society (ACS II) studies. The EPA’s own scientific advisors warned EPA officials that the studies were “not in the peer-reviewed literature” and “emphasized that there were significant uncertainties with the data, meaning EPA’s decision to proceed with the standards was a pure ‘policy call.’” Subsequently, the EPA Administrator at the time Carol Browner and Assistant Administrator Mary Nichols both admitted “neither of them had actually read the studies.” The report found that instead of reading the studies, both Browner and Nichols deferred to the “expertise of EPA’s career staff – Beale and Brenner – to make [the] policy call.”

While the goal of the NAAQS appears noble, the creator, science and motivation behind the NAAQS is anything but.