Politico Pro: Inhofe seeks probe of EPA science panels
August 5, 2011
Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov
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Inhofe seeks probe of EPA science panels
By Robin Bravender
August 5, 2011
Sen. Jim Inhofe is attacking the credibility of the EPA's science advisory panels just as the agency prepares to issue contentious new air pollution rules based on their advice.
The Oklahoma Republican wrote on Thursday to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins, asking him to conduct a wide-ranging probe of two panels tasked with advising EPA officials on clean air issues. Inhofe warned that the EPA has managed the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee and the Advisory Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis "in ways that are inconsistent with applicable law and administration policy."
Inhofe said that the EPA's advisory panels lack impartiality because members have publicly taken sides on the issues in question, that the EPA failed to ensure that panels are balanced in terms of the viewpoints they present and that the agency has failed to rotate members.
Inhofe also accused panel members of having financial conflicts of interest because they were the recipients of EPA research grants. He cited several instances in which scientists had received individual grants; several others were grants that went to research centers where the scientists worked.
"Instead of providing forums for impartial, objective advice, the committees appear to be designed and operated in a manner largely to rubber-stamp EPA's analyses and decisions," said Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
It's no coincidence that Inhofe is seeking a probe of the panels as the EPA prepares to issue new national air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter.
Based on concerns about the agency's advisory panels, he said, "we fear that EPA's most important near-term decisions, including EPA's proposal to reconsider the 2008 ozone [air quality standards], are based on flawed science that has not been critically reviewed by an objective external review committee." He urged the IG's office to complete the investigation quickly and report back by Sept. 19.
Industry groups and many GOP lawmakers have been campaigning to urge the Obama administration to abandon its plans to tighten the 2008 ozone standard, arguing that it would deal a serious blow to an already struggling economy.
Greens and top Democrats are pressing the EPA to stick to its plans to issue a stricter standard after the George W. Bush administration opted for a limit that was less stringent than the science advisers had recommended.
In a letter sent last month, EPA chief Lisa Jackson told Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) that she had decided to reconsider the standard "based on concerns that the 2008 standards were not legally defensible given the scientific evidence in the record for the rulemaking, the requirements of the Clean Air Act and the recommendation of the CASAC."