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EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee

EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee
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The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced that Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds MORE is reappointing a controversial official to lead an air quality advisory committee. 

Wheeler reappointed Louis Anthony “Tony” Cox Jr. to a second three-year term leading the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which advises the agency on the technical aspects of its national ambient air quality standards. 

Cox, who has done work for both the oil and chemical industries, was first appointed to lead CASAC in 2017. 

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In a statement, Wheeler praised Cox, as well as James Boylan, who he also reappointed, saying their “expertise and experience on the CASAC will continue to add value to this advisory committee, its deliberations, and its advice.”

However, critics raised concerns about whether Cox was committed to considering the impacts of pollution on public health. 

“He has shown he’s not interested in looking at the weight of the evidence on air pollution and health effects. He has shown ... that he’s uninterested in following the careful science-based process that EPA has followed for decades to set science-based and health-protective air pollution standards,” said Gretchen Goldman, the research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

According to E&E News, prior to joining CASAC, Cox took funding from the American Petroleum Institute, a major oil lobbying group, for his own research into a type of pollution called particulate matter and allowed the group to copy edit the research before publication. 

Cox denied to the news outlet that the oil lobby provided meaningful edits. 

He has also reportedly denied the link between particulate matter, also called soot, and mortality. 

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During Cox’s tenure, Wheeler disbanded a panel of scientists that was part of CASAC and tasked with reviewing how soot impacted human health. 

More recently, the EPA declined to tighten the air quality standard for soot, even though assessments have suggested that stricter standards could save lives. The agency also proposed not to tighten the standard for smog. 

“I’m concerned that he’ll continue to pick apart at the long-standing process that the EPA uses to ensure air pollution standards are science-based and protect public health,” Goldman said of Cox’s reappointment. “This could mean weaker standards for the next set of pollutants that are being reviewed by the EPA.”