Corrupting an ‘independent’ science panel

The EPA illegally stacks a key science advisory board — but nothing can be done about it.

Corrupting an ‘independent’ science panel

By Steve Milloy
Washington Times, August 8, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency has illegally stacked a key science advisory board with highly paid cronies — but nothing can be done about it. I have a comatose lawsuit to prove it.

We sued the EPA in May because a panel of the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) was selected in violation of the Clean Air Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, both of which require that CASAC be independent and unbiased.

The CASAC panel of concern is its Particulate Matter Review Panel for 2015-2018. It will pass judgment on EPA’s scientific assessment of the health risks of particulate matter (soot and dust) in outdoor air ahead of EPA’s next mandated review of the existing standards for particulate matter, perhaps the agency’s flagship regulatory program.

The EPA claims that particulate matter in outdoor air kills somewhere between 300,000 to 570,000 people per year. It has used this claim to fuel the Obama administration’s coal industry-killing war on coal and the most expensive EPA regulation ever — its outdoor air standard for ozone (smog).

The agency has spent almost $600 million on “scientific” research literally fabricating the notion that particulate matter in outdoor air kills. The EPA’s “science” has been difficult to challenge since the agency has hidden the key data from the public and Congress for 20 years.

Instrumental to EPA has been CASAC, which has spent the past 15 years rubber-stamping the EPA’s desired conclusions.

In 1996 when the EPA first claimed that particulate matter killed, CASAC rejected the claim, writing, “[Death] does not appear to be unambiguously related to any single pollutant let alone a specific portion of the particulate matter.” Of the 21 members of that CASAC particulate matter panel, two-thirds did not receive funding from EPA and could plausibly be considered as “independent.”

But since agency didn’t like the CASAC’s conclusions, it reconstituted the particulate matter panel to get a more favorable result. During the 2000s, the CASAC particulate matter panel was more than two-thirds comprised of EPA-funded scientists and, not surprisingly, it saw things the EPA’s way.

Now that the Obama EPA has discovered the potency of its particulate matter as a regulatory weapon, the EPA’s “science” must be protected at all costs. Despite legal requirements to the contrary, the new particulate matter panel is clearly anything but independent and unbiased. Of its 26 members, 24 have received grants from EPA in an amount exceeding $220 million. As CASAC works on a consensus basis, and the two non-EPA-funded panel members include a state regulator and a timid, token representative from an extremely cowed electric utility industry, “the fix is in” again.

Our lawsuit asked a federal court to order EPA to comply with the law and reconstitute the particulate matter panel so as to be independent and unbiased. The EPA responded with two primary arguments. First, the ever-arrogant EPA said it was not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) — despite the fact that in its official announcement about the particulate matter panel’s formation, the agency stated the particulate matter subpanel “will comply with the provisions of FACA .”

The more problematic of EPA’s defenses against our lawsuit, however, is the agency’s assertion that my not-for-profit group lacks standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place. The EPA pointed to a very recent federal appellate court decision basically concluding that unless we offered up an individual plaintiff who was denied membership on the particulate matter panel, we could not sue until the entire particulate matter regulatory process was over, somewhere around 2018 or later. Recognizing the legal reality, we withdrew our lawsuit to avoid the court doing it for us with prejudice.

The agency’s argument might sound reasonable until you realize that the EPA is not actually required to follow advice from CASAC. That’s how the EPA was able to regulate particulate matter on the basis that it kills in 1996 despite the conclusion to the contrary of the 1996 CASAC panel. It’s not hard to imagine that a future 2018 legal challenge to EPA’s new particulate matter regulations would be subject to an argument from EPA that the advice of CASAC doesn’t even really matter in the first place.

So why does the EPA even bother with CASAC? First, the Clean Air Act requires that EPA consult with a panel of independent scientists. Next and possibly more importantly, an EPA-friendly CASAC panel provides EPA scientific cover for its otherwise junk science-fueled regulatory agenda.

The larger point in all this is that Congress has enacted all sorts of “good government” laws aimed at ensuring that regulatory agencies like the EPA do their jobs properly and according to the law. But all this amounts to legal lip service, since there is no mechanism for the public to actually enforce them. My group is a public interest charity whose mission is, in part, to enforce good government laws. But as in the case of EPA’s CASAC, that is not possible since Congress did not explicitly provide an enforcement mechanism such as a right to sue.

Even in good government laws where Congress has provided a right to sue, such as the Freedom of Information Act, the laws fail to provide any legal consequences for agencies that fail to comply with their provisions. Not only have we had this experience with the EPA, but consider the extreme case of Hillary Clinton’s blatant and consequence-free efforts to avoid public disclosure laws by using a private email server for official State Department business.

Good government laws are nice but without a means to enforce them and meaningful consequences when they are violated or disregarded, they are merely illusory and a fraud on the public.

Steve Milloy publishes and is a senior fellow at the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute.

5 thoughts on “Corrupting an ‘independent’ science panel”

  1. COULD IT BE, that it takes no brains at all to see the corruption? If the EPA puts together an independent panel, it is no longer an “independent” panel but just another phony EPA panel to do the bidding of the Obama regime. EPA NEEDS TO BE DEFUNDED AND SIZED DOWN. If not simply done away with, and allow the states to use their own EPAs to reduce their own contribution to the (Authenticated) minute “man caused environment pollution.

  2. Blame Obama all you want but, the government has been on a downward spiral for a long time.
    US Congress filled with the likes of Pelosi and Boehner means we are screwed.
    As long as department heads from IRS, EPA and DOJ force government employees to lie, cheat and steal from the taxpayers it will never get better.

  3. The entire government has been stacked over the last 7+ years with termites and roaches emplaced by Obama and his appointees.
    A Republican president will face an uphill battle dealing with this infestation.

    I hope he just shuts at least one of the administration down and all of the civil servants find out they can actually be given the boot.

  4. The EPA has done what it wants to regardless of reality. DDT was declared save if used properly by Congress. The EPA outlawed DDT anyway. So the EPA still is making laws that can be proven unnecessary and punitive.
    The result was that millions of people have died. It is my opinion that the EPA should be shut down. The EPA only wants to continue to get taxpayer dollars to insure they will have a job. The public is being misled and lied too.

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