The EPA has dismissed two panels of outside scientists that advised the agency on particulate matter and ground-level ozone, which have been linked to smog and respiratory problems.
Under acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal-industry lobbyist, analyzing those pollutants will be left to the EPA's internal Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
The CASAC is a seven-member board made up primarily of government officials, such as state environmental, natural resources, and health officials and the Army Corps of Engineers. Its chairman, Anthony Cox, runs a private scientific research firm in Denver. Member Mark Frampton is an emeritus health professor specializing in the effects of pollution on heart disease at the University of Rochester, in New York.
Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move to disband the advisory panels. “By removing science and scientists, they are making it easier for the administration to set a weaker standard” Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy told the Washington Post.
The Particulate Matter Review Panel, which was disbanded Thursday, was made up of 20 academic scientists and was working on developing more stringent standards for soot produced by cars and trucks, power plants, and other sources.
EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler
The other panel on ozone had yet to meet, but its members were told the EPA would no longer form the panel.
Together the two panels held more than 20 scientists who were experts on air pollution.
The EPA announced plans over the summer to scrap the Clean Power Plan proposed by President Obama, which would have required power plants to reduce emissions.
The move follows EPA efforts to restrict the scientists that can serve on EPA panels to primarily industry scientists who don't get government grants, to reduce staff in the agency's enforcement division, to eliminate the office of the science advisor, and to overturn key parts of the Clean Air Act by planning to revoke California's long-standing waiver to set its own emissions requirements (which other states can then follow.)