EPA Scientific Review Panel Lacks Independence
by Lamar Smith on March 19, 2014 at 11:37 AM
As Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy today raising serious concerns about the agency’s scientific advisory processes. The letter highlights potential conflicts of interest and a lack of transparency within EPA’s supposedly independent scientific panel charged with reviewing what could be the most expensive regulation in history. By EPA’s own cost estimate, lowering ozone standards to the range being discussed by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Ozone Review Panel could cost nearly $100 billion per year.
The CASAC Ozone Review Panel appears to violate agency policies designed to ensure balance, independence and impartiality. Due to the substantial economic cost associated with finalizing a more stringent ozone standard, EPA should make every effort to ensure the transparency of the regulatory process. Additional transparency is necessary to assure Congress and the American people that EPA is basing its costly regulatory decisions on the best available science and not a predetermined regulatory agenda. In light of these serious concerns, it is unacceptable for EPA to move forward with new rules without first addressing potential conflicts of interest and a lack of transparency within a panel intended to provide the agency with independent scientific assessments.
Recent testimony before the Committee and the current makeup of the panel reveal a number of problems, including: panelists reviewing their own work; a lack of turnover among CASAC Ozone Review Panel members; and existing financial relationships between panelists and the EPA. Dr. Robert Phalen, a Co-Director of the Air Pollution Health Effects Laboratory and a former member of the CASAC panel on fine particulate matter, stated in testimony that the current CASAC process “is seriously flawed, it is narrowly focused, and it is even ethically questionable.”
The letter requests EPA provide all communications between agency staff, CASAC staff and the CASAC Ozone Review Panel related to potential revisions to the ozone standards.