CRS Applauds Chairman Inhofe’s Calls for Greater Transparency in Nominations for EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC)05/02/2016
On Friday, April 29, 2016, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the agency to provide the public an additional 30 days to submit nominations for the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) and insisting on greater transparency into EPA’s selection process. Currently, nominations are due no later than May 6, 2016, after a short 30 day clock expires.
The Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS) applauds this action as CASAC, a relatively obscure federal advisory panel, is in reality incredibly important. Before EPA proposes any revisions to ozone NAAQS, the debate over ozone science occurs within CASAC. Thus, CASAC’s advice shapes the terms of the debate for many important air quality issues, including the national ozone standard.
Chairman Inhofe has long understood the importance of CASAC and has been keeping a watchful eye on the committee. In his April 29 letter, he revealed that EPA essentially stacks the deck and only selects candidates who were nominated by an EPA employee or by a Designated Federal Officer (DFO). This essentially renders the public nomination period meaningless, if EPA never takes outside candidates seriously.
But sunlight is the best disinfectant and so the Chairman is calling on EPA to institute some common sense government reforms. These reforms include publically disclosing the source of each candidate’s nomination, as well as all comments made in reference to the candidates, and to promptly notify candidates if they are not selected. While these requests seem mundane, it is really shocking that EPA does not already do these things!
CRS has been outspoken on the impact that ozone standards have on small businesses across the country. Indeed, we have also expressed parallel concerns about the lack of transparency around CASAC’s panel membership and submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to EPA for records on the selection process for CASAC earlier in April. Western states in particular bear the brunt of the latest round of standards, as stringent the criteria is fast approaching background ozone levels – or those levels occur naturally or are not in the state’s control.
Sen. Inhofe’s office and the CRS are not the only entities concerned about EPA’s new ozone standards. In fact, the House Energy and Power Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on H.R. 4775 earlier this month, which featured testimony from state air regulators from Texas, California, Arizona, and Utah. These state air regulators called for a delay in the implementation of the ozone standard and noted that EPA is unprepared to account for background ozone when implementing the standard. One witness stated EPA’s new ozone standard will unfairly punish communities due to “air pollution they did not create and that the state cannot regulate.” Similar concerns were raised by state air regulators at a two-day workshop in February in Phoenix, Arizona.
Congressional action to delay the implementation of this standard comes as more and more states and business groups seek relief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In court documents filed by ten states, they note that “EPA’s hastily-crafted ozone NAAQS imposes an unachievable standard, divorced from the scientific realities of background ozone.”
Business groups, editorial boards, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle have also called on EPA to put the brakes on the new ozone rule. In March, Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper called suspending EPA’s new ozone standard “a great idea.” Even the U.S. National Park Service has submitted formal comments to EPA raising concerns with their handling of background ozone. The cross-country rejection of EPA’s new ozone rule is exactly why the CASAC panel advising on the ozone standard needs to be staffed with truly independent scientists and not by individuals hand picked by EPA itself.