Republican lawmakers are worried the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is compromising the integrity of its science advisory panels by appointing people who benefit from millions in federal research grants and peer-review their own work.
“I have observed EPA, under the Obama Administration, cherry-picking the same allies to serve on this advisory committee and its subcommittees at the expense of having an open and robust process for selecting external advisors,” Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, regarding how the agency chooses experts to sit on its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).
“The majority of CASAC members have also received considerable financial support from EPA, which calls into question their independence and therefore the integrity of the overall panel,” Inhofe added in his letter sent Tuesday.
CASAC is a panel of experts EPA uses to provide advice for agency clean air rules called National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The EPA is periodically required to update NAAQS for various pollutants, like ozone and particulate matter, and uses CASAC to evaluate its proposed rules.
In recent years, however, Republicans and EPA critics have pointed out the agency is appointing scientists to the panel who have gotten millions of dollars in federal research grants. Critics also claim EPA is appointing people who fully support increasing the agency’s regulatory authority.
“For the newly appointed panel this conflict is on full display—six of the seven members have received a total of $119,217,008 in EPA research grants,” Inhofe claimed in his letter. “As evidenced by EPA’s newly appointed CASAC members, this misguided and opaque process calls for renewed congressional oversight.”
It’s not just federal grants Republicans are worried about, lawmakers have found CASAC panel members often end up peer-reviewing regulations based on their own research — something which corrodes the integrity of the peer-review process.
Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith pointed out in 2014 that 16 of the 20 members on CASAC’s Ozone Review Panel were cited by EPA in key regulatory science documents the panel was asked to peer-review.
In 2013, EPA’s inspector general (IG) found the agency “has adequate procedures for identifying potential ethics concerns, including financial conflicts of interest, independence issues and appearances of lack of impartiality.”
The IG, however, noted EPA could have better documented decisions on CASAC panel members who got agency funding.
As EPA increasingly promulgates costly regulations shutting down power plants, there’s been increased scrutiny on who advises the agency. EPA’s efforts to lower ozone standards, for example, sparked backlash from Republicans.
EPA’s lower ozone standard is likely one of the costliest regulations ever promulgated by the agency. It was finalized late last year despite criticisms EPA may have fudged the numbers to make its ozone rule look more attractive.
The EPA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment before publication.
Update: An EPA spokeswoman told TheDCNF the agency plans to review the letter.
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