American Lung Association May Have Used Bad Data, Bad Polling

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The American Lung Association (ALA) and Natural Resources Defense Council, both high-dollar federal grant winners, along with the Sierra Club and Organizing for Action – a political organization closely aligned with President Obama – were given exclusive access to the White House for political reasons, according to a series of investigations by the New York Times and other media outlets.

In June, the Obama administration invited the groups to planning sessions for a so-called summit “to empower people and communities with the information and tools they need to protect public health in the face of climate change,” in order to justify Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency for its devastatingly tighter ozone standard and other regulatory issues. According to several members of Congress, including Alaska’s Rep. Don Young, much of what the EPA was providing to it’s community partners had factual errors, data irregularities and other mistakes the rendered the information problematic.

The ALA took the lead this June with its stage-managed “State of the Air” report, as revealed by the watchdog group, Center for Regulatory Solutions.

Now the Center reports that an official with the EPA, Region 7 spokesman David Bryan, has disavowed the American Lung Association (ALA) for misrepresenting federal air quality data. Bryan took aim at the ALA’s “State of the Air” report, which gave an “F” to Cedar County – population 13,952 – in southwestern Missouri. As the Cedar County Republican reports:

“’The EPA has nothing to do with that report,’ Bryan said of the ALA State of the Air report. He said the report gives a grade and [the EPA] has nothing to do with grades. According to Bryan, the ALA report ‘takes a hodge podge of statistics’ in creating its grades.”

Karen Kerrigan, president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, which operates the Center as a project, researched the ALA’s report, which is being used around the country to support the EPA’s tighter ozone standards. She found that this is not the first time the report’s “findings” have been criticized or questioned. Strong objections to the reports data have come from a bipartisan coalition of local and state officials, labor unions and business leaders from across the economy.

Kerrigan said, “This fact-check from EPA’s regional office in the Kansas City suburbs is remarkable, given how closely the agency’s political appointees and White House officials have been working with the ALA in Washington, D.C. But it’s also consistent with the growing chorus of criticism of the ALA outside of the nation’s capital, in the communities that will suffer the hardship created by lowering the federal ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) into the range of 65 to 70 ppb.”

Bad Data, Bad Poll, Bad Science

Kerrigan wrote in the Center’s report: “The timing of the EPA criticism could not be worse for the ALA, which is trying to restore its credibility by pushing a new opinion poll on the ozone debate. The ALA claims that the poll shows widespread public support for tighter ozone limits, but the questions behind the poll contain the same misleading claims and omissions that shredded the group’s credibility in the first place.

“Voters are asked if they favor or oppose “stricter limits on the amount of smog that power plants, oil refiners and other industrial facilities can release.” Nowhere does the poll mention that in ozone non-attainment areas, those limits are imposed across the entire economy, including the cars that voters drive and in some cases the businesses where they work, not just a handful of sources. Nor does the poll mention that groups representing more than 20,000 local governments across the country – led by the U.S. Conference of Mayors – oppose the EPA’s effort to tighten the existing standard from 75 ppb into the range of 65 to 70 ppb because of the constraints it would impose on economic growth. Nowhere does the poll disclose the serious concerns of state environmental regulators that the EPA’s proposed ozone limit is so strict, it could penalize communities for background levels of ozone over which they have no control – background levels which are getting worse because of pollution drifting into the country from China and other nations. The poll does not mention that EPA’s ozone proposal has even been criticized by supporters of the Obama administration, including prominent backers of the Clean Power Plan.”

This is what’s called in the jargon of the trade, a Push Poll, a form of negative persuasion telephone calling that is meant to simulate a poll but is really intended to convince the respondent to give the answer the sponsor wants and move them away from contrary views. Push polling is so antithetical to legitimate polling that in 1996 the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC), and the National Council on Public Polls (NCPP) issued a joint statement condemning them.

Kerrigan wrote, “The ALA poll does not tell voters that ozone levels have fallen dramatically in recent decades and that the existing federal standard was set less than a decade ago. Nor does the poll mention that the existing standard, set in 2008, was only finalized in February 2015, which means it has not had a chance to work. The ALA certainly does not disclose to voters that the Obama administration rejected any tightening of the federal ozone standard in 2011 because of the economic damage it would cause.

“Instead, the poll uses a weak caricature of these widespread economic concerns, and asks voters if those concerns are worth “keeping parents in the dark about the true impact of pollution on their children.” In addition to such emotionally charged rhetoric, the ALA once again repeats the claim that tighter ozone limits will reduce asthma cases, ignoring more than a decade of real-world data that shows there is no correlation. In fact, the number of asthma cases grew by millions at the same time as ozone levels were falling,” Kerrigan concluded.

Junk Report, Junk Poll, Junk Agenda.