EPA: We Report, You Decide

Now we don't mean to come off as cynics here at TreeHugger, but given the EPA's "commendable" record in the past few years, we couldn't exactly let this little nugget slide:

"The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to provide adequate information for the public to discern whether conflicts of interest exist for more than half of its recently unveiled short list of 55 experts for a special panel that will reevaluate the health risks of particulate matter air pollution."This doesn't necessarily mean that foul play is afoot, of course, but just check out the following short biography of UCI professor Robert Phalen:

"...University of California at Irvine Professor of Community and Environmental Medicine Robert Phalen, who has written a book questioning the link between particulate air pollution and adverse health effects and arguing that tighter air pollution standards are premature, has received research funding from the Southern California Edison Company and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the utility industry"

Yes, it's true that the EPA's announcement did reveal that 11 of the nominees worked for or received funding from the Health Effects Institute, but what wasn't disclosed was the fact that this organization gets half of its budget from the automobile industry. But I guess we shouldn't be too critical: the EPA did also reveal the industry affiliations of 5 candidates (that's 5 out of 55) who received some form of compensation from EPRI or member companies of the American Chemistry Council.

Again, we don't want to suggest that the resulting panel will be biased or flawed because of the choice of candidates presented, but we do feel strongly that disclosure should be at the center of anything the government sponsors (not just the EPA necessarily) so that the public can feel confident that it has all the information it needs before forming an opinion on such an important issue.

Trust and transparency should form the basis for any interaction between the government and the public. We'd expect the same from candidates receiving funding from NGOs or companies in favor of combating global climate change so don't think this is just a one-way road.

Via ::Integrity in Science Watch: EPA Short List Long on Candidates, Short on Disclosure (website), ::Wired: EPA Silent on Air Pollution Experts' Conflicts of Interest (blog)

See also: ::EPA Closing Libraries, Destroying Scientific Documents, ::EPA Rachel Carson Contest

Tags: Air Pollution | EPA