Policy: Environment & Energy

EPA uses tax dollars to buy 'independent' scientific reviews to support proposed regulations

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,EPA,Energy and Environment,Lamar Smith

Federal agencies are required by law to rely upon independent scientific experts to conduct cost-benefit analyses of proposed environmental regulations.

But, as Washington Examiner columnist Ron Arnold notes today in a devastating analysis, officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency think the law doesn't apply to them.

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee is EPA's "independent" panel of experts who advise the agency on costs and benefits of proposed Clean Air Act regulations. Members of the CASAC are anything but independent.

Bought and paid for

"Fifteen of the 20 CASAC ozone review panelists received $180.8 million in EPA grants. The largest, $51.7 million, went to Ed Avol of the University of Southern California; the lowest, $102,000, went to Michelle Bell of Yale University. The seven members of the panel’s executive committee took $80.2 million of the total," Arnold said.

"Any claim that the 15 grant recipients on this panel have 'complete independence' from the EPA — as federal law requires — when their careers have depended on EPA grants of such magnitude is a disgusting farce," he said.

No wonder EPA's independent experts routinely conclude that proposed regulations offer economic and other benefits that far outweigh their costs.

Rotten to the core

But wait, it gets worse! As Arnold notes, EPA officials refuse to allow anybody with anything remotely like a financial connection to a regulated industry to participate in the reviews.

"Some industry-funded scientists have had to divest their retirement funds in order to serve. The regulated have no voice in their own fate," Arnold said.

"But academic panel member Avol can take $51.7 million from the EPA and be honored for not having a conflict of interest. The EPA is thoroughly, hopelessly rotten to the core," the disgusted Arnold concludes.

Congressman wants answers

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He's asked GAO to assess the situation with EPA's outside experts.

He's also challenged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to provide copies of all communication between her agency and the CASAC. Predictably, EPA failed to do so by Smith's deadline.

Go here to read Smith's letter to McCarthy on the issue.

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