by Steve Milloy, Senior Policy Fellow
On May 13, The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for illegal formation of a key science advisory committee. The committee at issue is the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Particulate Matter Review Panel for 2015-2018 (CASAC PM Panel). E&E Legal filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of its members who include the Western States Trucking Association and Dr. James Enstrom, a Research Fellow and epidemiologist retired from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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 EPA grants. This clearly violates the law and makes a mockery of the notion of ‘independent’ scientific review.
We are asking the court to prevent the EPA from convening the panel until the panel can be formed in a balanced manner in compliance with applicable laws,” said Dr. David Schnare, E&E Legal’s General Counsel and a 33-year veteran of the EPA.
The EPA’s regulation of ambient airborne fine particulate matter, soot or dust in outdoor air also called “PM2.5” (pronounced Pee-Em-Two-Point-Five”), has been scientifically controversial since the EPA began the process of regulating it in the early 1990s. The EPA claims that any inhalation of PM2.5 can cause death within hours and that PM2.5 in outdoor air kills hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Not only has the EPA hidden from public scrutiny for over 20 years key scientific data that its PM2.5 regulation relies on, but also the agency stacks the legally required CASAC panel with EPA-paid researchers.
EPA’s claims about the lethality of PM2.5 have been a primary basis for the agency’s justification of its air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone, as well as regulations key to the Obama administration’s so-called “war on coal”, including the: Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, Mercury Air Transport Standard and Clean Power Plan. State implementation of EPA’s PM2.5 standards is also quite costly as evidenced by E&E Legal member Western States Trucking Association, whose own members are forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars retrofitting truck engines to comply with California state PM2.5 emissions requirements as mandated by the EPA.
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. Of the 26 members the EPA selected to be on the CASAC PM Panel, 24 of them have been paid or are currently being paid by the EPA a total sum in excess of $190 million. The EPA’s supposedly ‘independent’ review process is entirely rigged to advance EPA’s agenda.
“Both the Clean Air Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act require that the CASAC PM Panel be independent and unbiased,” Schnare said. “We are asking the court to determine that an EPA advisory panel that operates on a consensus basis but that is 90 percent comprised of highly-paid EPA cronies does not meet the requirements of the law,” Schnare added.
The EPA process for commissioning and evaluating PM2.5 research has been so rigged and so biased for so long that many scientists don’t even try to get nominated for CASAC panels any more. They’ve simply given up. A case study of this is E&E Legal member and PM2.5 researcher Jim Enstrom who, in questioning EPA’s PM2.5 science, has lost professional opportunities because of the extreme biases of the EPA, CASAC and current and former CASAC panel members. CASAC is a cabal, not an independent committee.
“As the EPA is at the very beginning a new round of review of PM2.5 regulation, as required by the Clean Air Act, our lawsuit is intended to make sure that process is conducted in an independent and unbiased manner as required by the law and expected by the public and Congress,” Schnare said.
Joe Rajkovacz, with the Western States Trucking Association, noted in a Truck.com article, that it’s important to have an impartial committee review the EPA’s findings because of the negative financial impact the agency’s rulings could have on small-business truckers. “Federal law requires the EPA to run all of its rule-makings through an advisory committee, who is supposed to be an independent committee that weighs the science they are basing their rule-makings on,” he said. “What kind of science do you think we will get if most of the independent researchers’ financial well-being is dependent on grant money from the EPA?”
Also according to Truck.com, “James E. Enstrom, a retired UCLA epidemiologist, also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. He published a critical analysis in the peer-reviewed medical journal Inhalation Toxicology that failed to support a relationship between PM2.5 and premature deaths in California.”
Subsequently, E&E Legal has filed a petition for a temporary restraining order to prevent any action by the panel until the suit is heard.