Enforcement and Inspection

CourtWatch: Lawsuit Claims EPA Purging Boards of Industry Members

Dr. Stanley D. Young, a former member of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Council, filed suit on October 7, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accusing the EPA of purging its advisory boards of industry members.

“The [EPA] has a problem with dissent. In an unprecedented purge, EPA eliminated all industry representatives from two important advisory committees in order to stack those committees with academics who are financially beholden to EPA for multi-million-dollar research grants,” states the lawsuit. “Through this mass dismissal, EPA guaranteed that the committees will rubber stamp the new administration’s regulations without the inconvenience of an objecting voice from the very industries targeted by those regulations and bearing the cost of those regulations, to the tune of billions of dollars a year. These newly constituted, industry-free advisory committees are neither fairly balanced nor protected from inappropriate influence in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Further, EPA has never attempted to explain how the composition of these new committees could possibly comply with FACA, nor did EPA acknowledge—much less justify—its departure from its longstanding, bipartisan practice of ensuring industry representation on these two advisory committees. EPA also abandoned—again without acknowledgment or explanation—its policy of addressing grant-based conflicts of interests on an individual appointment-by-appointment basis. In its haste to eliminate all traces of industry from its advisory committees, EPA ran roughshod over FACA and its obligation to engage in reasoned decision-making.”

Reuters reports EPA spokesperson Timothy Carroll declined to comment on a pending case, and “Jones Day partner Brett Shumate, who represents Young, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shumate was a senior Justice Department official in the Trump administration, serving as a deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s civil division.”

The suit adds, “The committees are now unfairly balanced—both in terms of points of view and the functions the committees are required to perform—because they lack a single member affiliated with regulated industries.”

By removing all industry members, the suit claims Michael Regan, EPA administrator, has violated the FACA, enacted in 1972 to ensure federal advisory committees provide “objective” advice that is accessible by the public.

“[T]he suit alleges that two leading principles of FACA have been violated in the sweeping purge of regulated industry representatives,” reports Fox News. “According to the suit, FACA is intended to ensure members’ viewpoints are ‘fairly balanced’ and that the advice of the committees is not ‘inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority’ but rather independently judged by the advisers.”

The suit claims the new committees are unfairly balanced “because they do not include any members representing regulated industries. Indeed, the 47-member Board and the 7-member Committee do not include a single industry-affiliated member.”

This language alleges Regan is making a partisan move that leaves industry without representation. Analysts have pointed out the Trump administration was also accused of partisan politics when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt filled the EPA advisory committees with industry representatives after removing groups of scientists.

At that time, The Washington Post reported, “The Center for Science and Democracy estimates that on the Scientific Advisory Board alone, Pruitt has tripled the number of industry and consulting-firm scientists while cutting academic researchers nearly by half.”

That action also prompted a lawsuit in 2018 filed in Boston federal court by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Young’s suit also contends that by violating the FACA, the EPA has also disobeyed the Administrative Procedural Act (APA).

The suit names the EPA; Regan; the EPA Science Advisory Board; Allison Cullen, Chair of the Science Advisory Board; the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee; and Elizabeth Shepherd, Chair of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee as defendants.