Senator Accuses EPA of Stacking the Deck on Air Quality Panel

Brittany M. Hughes | February 2, 2016

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, blasted Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency in a letter sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, accusing the agency of unfairly stacking its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) with agenda-friendly members who've taken a collective $119 million in government grants.

For those who don’t have their English-to-Washington, D.C. translator handy, the CASAC is a panel of independent scientists who advise the EPA on the “National Ambient Air Quality Standards” – you know, all those emission regulations that affect things like car inspections and energy prices.

According to Inhofe, the EPA has been unfairly stacking its deck with scientific advisors who probably have the least possible chance of being objective in their analysis. In his letter, the Oklahoma senator slams the agency for “cherry-picking” the same scientists on a three-year rotating basis to serve on the committee, essentially appointing advisors who the EPA knows will be friendly to their politically-motivated environmental agenda. On top of that, the agency has also failed to appoint any committee members from the National Academy of Sciences, which is required by law in the Clean Air Act.

Given the number of well-qualified nominees and thousands of scientific experts across the country, it is deeply concerning EPA continues to select the same people. This practice runs counter to EPA policy and unnecessarily blocks other experts from serving as advisors.

The EPA has also been less-than-open about its selection process, Inhofe claims, explaining:

There is no way for the public to know the extent to which EPA received comments on the nominees or how EPA fully reached its decision to select certain nominees over others.

But not only have most of the CASAC members already sat on the panel or its subcommittees, six out of seven CASAC advisors have also received EPA grants – to the total tune of over $119 million. One CASAC subcommittee includes members that have received a total of $330 million in EPA grants over the years.

Inhofe points out in his letter:

For the newly-appointed panel, this conflict is on full display – six of the seven members have received a total of $119,217,008 in EPA research grants. Much to my display, three of the seven members have received in excess of $25 million each. This is not limited to the chartered CASAC as 22 of the 26 newly appointed members to the CASAC subcommittee on particulate matter have received more than $330 million in EPA grants.

These vast sums of money certainly constitute a conflict of interest and at a minimum give the appearance of a lack of impartiality.

Inhofe also claims the EPA is only choosing CASAC members from certain parts of the country, conveniently omitting voices from areas most affected by the clean air regulations:

Among the seven members, three are from the northeast and two are from the west coast -- not a single member is from a state within EPA's region four, six, seven or eight, which represent vast parts of the country impacted by [air quality standards]."