Scientists booted from EPA panel form their own group

Scientists booted from EPA panel form their own group
© UPI Photo

Scientists who were booted from their advisory roles by the Trump administration plan to reconvene their air pollution panel without the backing of the government.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: EPA chief touts benefits of deregulation for environment | Trump officials weaken fish protections Interior chief once lobbied against | USDA watchdog to probe handling of climate reports EPA chief espouses benefits of agency's environmental deregulation EPA moves to implement Trump order on scaling back industry guidance MORE disbanded the Particulate Matter Review Panel, part of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, in October 2018.

ADVERTISEMENT
The 20-member review panel was composed of some of the nation’s top scientists, who were tasked with reviewing how soot and other microscopic air pollutants impact human health. The panel helped the EPA determine what level of air pollution is safe to breathe. 

Now the scientists who once served on the panel will meet on Oct. 10, the anniversary of the day it was disbanded.

“This is the first time in the history of EPA where the credibility of the agency’s science review process has been so compromised that an independent panel of experts has recognized the need for and will be conducting a comprehensive review,” said Chris Zarba, who will help lead the effort and once served as director of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, another board that provides scientific advice to the agency. 

The meeting, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, will conclude with a report stating whether the current particulate matter standard is adequate based on the latest science and if a new standard is warranted.

The reunion comes amid efforts from the White House to limit the number of scientific review panels across government and as the EPA pushes out a number of regulations that critics say will increase air pollution. 

The EPA downplayed the significance of the independent panel.

“EPA always welcomes comments from the public and it is not uncommon for special interest groups and coalitions to organize, meet and develop comments for submission to the record. EPA will continue to take into consideration these comments that meet our scientific standards,” an agency spokesman said in an email to The Hill.

It’s possible the action may spur other groups to form as President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE encourages departments to axe other similar committees. He signed an executive order in June that requires departments to trim advisory boards by one-third, a move that sparked outrage among scientists. 

Just a few days later, the EPA unveiled a new rule to replace Obama-era restrictions on power plant pollution, something environmentalists argue will increase carbon pollution. 

"Reconvening a disbanded pollutant review panel breaks new ground,” said Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union for Concerned Scientists.

“Nothing like this has ever been done before. Indeed, nothing like this has ever been necessary. But we live in unprecedented times.”