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CASAC Panel Nominations Offer Robust Selection for EPA’s Consideration

June 23, 2016

Washington, D.C. – On June 21, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted its list of individuals nominated to serve on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The deadline to submit comments on these nominees is July 20, 2016. The Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS), a project of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, is urging EPA to select a qualified individual for this crucial position.

With several excellent nominees to choose from, EPA now has an opportunity to address the controversy that has surrounded its relationship with CASAC. The committee was established by Congress to provide independent advice to the EPA Administrator on the scientific and technical bases of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and other pollutants. Yet, many in Congress are concerned that CASAC is not independent from EPA. With this latest round of nominations, EPA now has an opportunity to hear from states and communities that are concerned about their ability to comply with the new federal ozone standard, which EPA issued last fall.

In its decision, EPA dramatically tightened the ozone standard from 2008 levels, dropping permissible ozone concentrations in ambient air from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. The decision came despite widespread bipartisan opposition from federal, state, and local elected officials, as well as editorial boards, business and industry groups, and others who warned that the costs of the rule far outweighed any apparent benefits. At the time, CASAC recommended lowering the standard even further.

Of the seven nominees, Dr. Robert Blanz with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Mr. Craig Butler of the Ohio EPA, Dr. Michael Honeycutt of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Dr. Jim Boylan of the Georgia Department of Natural Resource and Mr. Tom Moore with Western States Air Resources Council, each represent an opportunity for EPA to improve understanding of the challenges states are facing as a result of EPA’s new ozone standard on this important advisory committee.

CASAC Controversy

It is encouraging that EPA has this opportunity to consider nominees whose job it is to implement the complex regulatory regime, as the agency has recently come under fire from Congressional leaders, the EPA Inspector General and the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO), due to concerns regarding lack of transparency, public input, and geographic diversity on the advisory committee. The current makeup of the panel does not ameliorate any of these concerns.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA) CASAC is required to have at least one representative from a state pollution control agency. That position is currently held by a representative from the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), a group that has gone on the record supporting stricter ozone standards. Meanwhile, the states that face higher implementation burdens due to their geographies, economic activities or their naturally-occurring background ozone levels do not currently have any representation on CASAC.

The lack of balance on the panel has not gone unnoticed. For example, in February, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, chided EPA for “cherry picking the same allies” to serve on its committees “at the expense of having an open and robust process for selecting external advisors.”

Chairman Inhofe is not alone in his call for broader representation on CASAC. A recent Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA) survey of state regulators, found that a broad majority, 69 percent of survey respondents, disagreed that CASAC is “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions performed by the advisory committee.” Further, 65 percent of respondents believed CASAC and its subpanels were unbalanced in its geographic representation.

CRS has also been speaking out about the impact the new ozone standard will have on small businesses across the country. As part of that effort, we have taken issue with what we see as a lack of transparency around CASAC’s panel membership, which is why CRS submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to EPA for records on the selection process for CASAC in April. In EPA’s response, they revealed that in 2015, when three slots were open, one EPA employee, Nicole Hagan, nominated 22 individuals to the CASAC panel. However, EPA was less forthcoming about who nominated the individuals who actually EPA picked to serve on CASAC. Of the three individuals McCarthy appointed, EPA only disclosed the person behind Elizabeth Sheppard’s nomination, EPA employee Nicole Hagan.  However, EPA failed to disclose who nominated the other two members – Judith Chow and Ivan Fernandez. According to EPA’s response to Chairman Inhofe’s inquiries – Chow and Fernandez were nominated by a designated federal official (DFO), likely EPA’s Aaron Yeow.

The next round of appointments to CASAC come at a time when far too many local elected officials and job creators are seeking answers to the ozone conundrum set off by the EPA last October. This is why it is critical that EPA select qualified members who understand these challenges and can provide EPA with sound advice.

Nominees With Experience

Dr. Robert Blanz currently serves the State of Arkansas as the Chief Technical Officer for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (Department). As the Chief Technical Officer, he is responsible for technical policy matters across all environmental media, including the Office of Air Quality, Office of Water Quality, and Office of Land Resources. In addition, Dr. Blanz is Acting Operations Manager of the Office of Water Quality of the Department. Dr. Blanz’s educational background includes a B.A. and M.S. in Zoology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station. His areas of expertise are environmental engineering and ecology. Dr. Blanz is a registered professional engineer.

Dr. Jim Boylan has extensive experience in implementing the EPA-mandated ozone standard. He is currently the Program Manager of Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Air Protection Branch, which protects Georgia’s air quality by monitoring ambient levels of air pollutants throughout the State.

Craig Butler is the Director of the Ohio EPA and has been a public servant for more than 24 years. Mr. Butler previously served as Chief of Ohio EPA’s Central District Office and Southeast District Office. He is also a member of the Dangerous Wild Animal Board and a past member of the Board of Directors for the Ohio Alliance for the Environment. Mr. Butler graduated from Mansfield University in Pennsylvania with honors with a B.A. in Geography and Environmental Science and from Ohio University with a Master’s in Environmental Science.

Dr. Michael Honeycutt is the Director of the Toxicology Division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where he has been employed for two decades. His responsibilities include overseeing health effects reviews of air permit applications and reviewing the results of ambient air monitoring projects. Dr. Honeycutt has also served as an expert witness in public and state legislative hearings, public meetings and has testified before the House of Representatives to discuss the importance of considering naturally-occurring background ozone levels ahead of EPA issuing its new ozone standard. EPA’s (and CASAC’s) failure to fully account for the effect of background ozone prior to issuing its new standard has since been recognized as a serious limitation of the new regulation.

Mr. Tom Moore is the Air Quality Program Manager for the Western Regional Air Partnership and works for the Western States Air Resources Council (WESTAR), the association of state air quality agencies for 15 western states. Tom has led numerous regional air pollution studies and analysis projects, held management positions in state and local government and worked as an environmental consultant. Before joining WESTAR, he managed WRAP activities for the Western Governors’ Association. Previously, he led air quality monitoring and analysis activities for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for more than a decade, where he assisted in the development and led the implementation of health and visibility monitoring networks throughout the state. Tom has also served on national advisory groups for air quality health standards and regional haze.

The full list of nominees is available here.

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