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Emanual Dixon of St. Petersburg, Fla., turns over chicken, pork and beef ribs in his fire pit grill. Is the EPA planning to clamp down on such an all-American activity? (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times) Emanual Dixon of St. Petersburg, Fla., turns over chicken, pork and beef ribs in his fire pit grill. Is the EPA planning to clamp down on such an all-American activity? (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times)

Emanual Dixon of St. Petersburg, Fla., turns over chicken, pork and beef ribs in his fire pit grill. Is the EPA planning to clamp down on such an all-American activity? (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson March 26, 2015

Allen West says Obama EPA wants to regulate backyard barbecue

Hands off our backyard barbecues, says former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.

West -- now the president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based free-market think tank -- leapt to the defense of home-cooked meat in a signed item posted on his personal website on March 19, 2015.

The article was headlined, "Two things the EPA wants to regulate in your life," and referred to alleged interest by the Environmental Protection Agency in backyard barbecues and hotel shower water. Here’s an excerpt of West’s post:

"Ladies and gents, I just cannot ascertain when the absurdity of this current administration will cease. The weather is finally warming up and one of the rituals of spring and summer is the family BBQ. Well, it is for now until the Environmental Protection Agency has its way.

"As reported by Fox News, ‘the EPA is funding a $15,000 University of California-Riverside study to look at the particulate emissions you breathe when grilling over an open flame. … Why is the EPA concerned about BBQ grill emissions? Who are these people and why are they using one single dime of American taxpayer dollars for this tomfoolery?"

A reader saw West’s claim about barbecue and asked us to check it out. So we took a look at whether West was correct that the EPA wants to regulate the family BBQ.

According to the Fox News article cited by West, "the EPA is funding a $15,000 University of California-Riverside study to look at the particulate emissions you breathe when grilling over an open flame."

The study in question can be found on an EPA webpage for "extramural research" -- that is, research funded by EPA but carried out by external researchers. This particular study was titled, "Technology for the Reduction of Particulate Matter Emissions for Residential Propane BBQs," and was to be undertaken by four researchers at the University of California-Riverside between Aug. 15, 2014, and Aug. 14, 2015. The project amount was $15,000.

The objective? "To perform research and develop preventative technology that will reduce fine particulate emissions ... from residential barbecues. This technology is intended to reduce air pollution as well as health hazards in Southern California, with potential for global application," according to the EPA website.

So West’s claim hasn’t been made up from whole cloth. But it’s still pretty misleading.

Most importantly, there’s a big difference between funding a small scientific grant and actually seeking to regulate an activity. The EPA makes clear that this grant isn’t exactly the camel’s nose under the tent. "EPA does not regulate backyard barbecues and does not plan to in the future," the agency said in a statement to PolitiFact. (The Fox News article did mention this disclaimer toward the end of its story.)

The difference between supporting a study and setting national policy is especially wide in this case, because the funding comes from a national student design competition -- the "P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet."

The other study mentioned in West’s post, the one about hotel water monitoring, also stemmed from the same student design competition. This project "aims to develop a novel, low-cost, wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel guest room showers," that could eventually be "marketed to the hotel industry to reduce costs by promoting water conservation among hotel guests," according to the EPA’s summary.

By West’s standard, would projects hosted by the White House at its science fair on March 23 also constitute a roadmap for future policymaking? Will the high school projects for a wearable breathalyzer wristband, or a system for turning algae into a biofuel -- two real projects hosted at the science fair -- automatically become guideposts for future federal rulemaking? We don’t think so. (West’s press office didn’t reply to two emails for this article.)

Our ruling

West said the "EPA wants to regulate … the family BBQ."

Reasonable people can disagree over whether the research projects in question are worth spending tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds. But it’s wrong to say, as West does, that their existence demonstrates that the EPA "wants to" regulate backyard barbecues. The EPA says it isn’t seeking to do so, and the projects in question are examples of scientific inquiry, not examples of federal rulemaking.

We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Allen West, "Insanity: Two things the EPA wants to regulate in your life," March 19, 2015

Environmental Protection Agency, "Developing a Wireless Device for Monitoring Water Usage for Hotel Showers," accessed March 25, 2015

Environmental Protection Agency, "Technology for the Reduction of Particulate Matter Emissions for Residential Propane BBQs," accessed March 25, 2015

Fox News, "Lawmaker calls for a rebellion against EPA pollution emissions for backyard barbecues," March 17, 2015

Fox2 St. Louis, "St. Louis politician calls for tasty protest against proposed EPA barbecue regulations – #PorkSteakRebellion," March 16, 2015

White House, "President Obama Hosts 5th White House Science Fair," March 23, 2015

Environmental Protection Agency, statement to PolitiFact, March 25, 2015

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Allen West says Obama EPA wants to regulate backyard barbecue

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