Scientists booted from EPA panel form their own group

Scientists booted from EPA panel form their own group
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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: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe EPA proposes tighter emissions standards for industrial boilers after court order Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending MORE disbanded the Particulate Matter Review Panel, part of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, in October 2018.

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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 TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' 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.”