EPA Used Critically Flawed, Illegal Process to Select Potential Members for its Chemical Safety Advisory Panel

Statement of Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

July 23, 2020
Keith Gaby, (202) 572-3336, kgaby@edf.org

“Today EPA released a list of potential candidates for a key chemical safety advisory committee that is critically flawed from the outset: Candidates were solicited and screened under an illegal directive issued by scandal-plagued former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that barred any scientist receiving EPA grant funding from serving on the agency’s dozens of advisory bodies.  By using that directive to make this list, EPA is ignoring decisions by three separate Courts ruling the directive illegal. 

“In response to these court rulings, just this week, EDF and other NGOs sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calling on the agency to suspend ongoing processes to fill positions and reopen the nominations process, including that for the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), to specifically solicit and consider nominations of qualified EPA-grant funded scientists. The groups also called on EPA to reinstate advisors whom it had removed or not renewed based on the illegal directive.

“EPA has indicated in statements made to the press in response to this request that it is refusing to undertake these steps. Essentially, this decision means that EPA is refusing to undo the serious damage its illegal directive has caused to the agency’s ability to obtain the best possible independent scientific advice.

“While we have yet to scrutinize the list of candidates in detail, one name does draw immediate deep concern: Michael Dourson – the failed Trump nominee to lead EPA’s chemical safety office. Dourson’s record of mercenary science and downplaying chemical risks to benefit industry drew widespread criticism – and opposition from Senators on both sides of the aisle. The fact that he is included on this list is yet another display of the Administration weighing industry interests over public health protection; it also speaks volumes about the conflicts of interest screening process EPA has used.

“EPA’s perversion of its scientific advisory process under the Trump Administration is deeply disturbing. EDF reiterates its call for the agency to reopen the SACC nomination process to qualified scientists receiving EPA grant funding, and to operate the nominations process in an open and transparent manner.”

Additional Background:

In March of this year, EPA solicited nominations to the SACC – but then failed to post any of the nominations it received to the docket it established for this process. EDF then requested that EPA do so, arguing that the public has a right to know what entities nominated the various candidates EPA has now identified. EPA refused EDF’s request.                 

In response, on June 2, EDF filed a FOIA request for this information. EPA is slow-walking its response to this request. The agency issued a pro forma response indicating it did not expect to provide the requested information to EDF before December 18 of this year – over six months after the initial request – despite the 20 business day requirement for the federal government to respond to FOIAs. EDF has repeatedly followed up with the relevant EPA staff, but has, to date, not received an adequate response.

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