A free market legal group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allegedly stacking a scientific advisory panel on air pollution with researchers who had received more than $190 million in grants from the agency.
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (EELI) is suing EPA on behalf of the Western States Trucking Association and Dr. James Enstrom, a retired University of California-Los Angeles epidemiologist who was blacklisted for challenging EPA claims about particulate matter.
“The EPA has stacked the panel, which is required by law to be independent and unbiased, with researchers who have received over $190 million in discretionary grants from the EPA,” said Steve Milloy, an attorney with EELI, in a statement.
“This clearly violates the law and makes a mockery of the notion of ‘independent’ scientific review,” he said.
The EPA relies on a panel of scientific advisers, called the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, to validate the science underlying key clean air regulations pushed by the agency. In this case, EELI is asking the court to prevent the EPA from convening a panel tasked with reviewing the science behind agency regulations on fine particulate matter, or PM2.5.
EELI believes the agency has stacked the panel with researchers who will rubber stamp EPA rules regulating PM2.5. EPA also relies on claimed PM2.5 reductions for the majority of health benefits in some of its largest regulations on power plants.
Some 24 of the 26 members of EPA’s PM2.5 panel have gotten or are the current recipients of EPA grants. In total, panel members have gotten more than $190 million from the agency, according to EELI. Milloy says this violates the federal laws requiring such scientific advisory panels be “independent.”
EELI isn’t alone in pointing out potential problems with using scientific advisers financially reliant on EPA. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe sent a letter to the EPA, criticizing the agency for selecting advisers who benefit from federal largesse.
In 2014, Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith pointed out that many science panel members were often peer-reviewing regulations based on their own research, corroding the integrity of the peer-review process.
“Not only does the EPA pay researchers to produce controversial research that advances its PM2.5 regulatory agenda, but the agency pays the very same researchers to review their own controversial work,” said Milloy, who also runs the blog JunkScience.com and has been involved in the PM2.5 debate for years.