The EPA confirmed that the Particulate Matter Review Panel is no longer listed to continue to meet next year. According to a New York Times report, the EPA confirmed the disbandment to the news organization on Wednesday.
The 20-member panel made up of scientists were tasked with advising the EPA on “setting safe levels of the microscopic pollutants,” EcoWatch reported. The U.S. has been successful in reducing air pollution based off of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) that are reviewed every year by scientific experts.
Critics of this move by the EPA call it “part of a pattern.”
“We’re seeing EPA trying to cut science out of the process,” Gretchen Goldman, research director at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), said. “The end result here could be a weaker particulate standard, not based on science and not protective of public health. PM is responsible for thousands of premature deaths annually in the U.S. A weaker standard does not help.”
But after the confirmation that the Particulate Matter Review Panel (PM) will no longer meet come the new year, Andrew Wheeler, acting director of the EPA announced on Wednesday that the EPA appointed five new members to the chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The panel, which is made up of seven members and required under Section 109 of the Clean Air Act, “provides critical advice related to National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), including about how to set standards that protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, the role of background pollution, research needs, and potential adverse effects from strategies to meet these standards,” a news release stated.
“These experts will provide critical scientific advice to EPA as it evaluates where to set national standards for key pollutants like ozone and particulate matter,” Wheeler said. “They are highly qualified and have a diverse set of backgrounds in fields like toxicology, engineering, medicine, ecology, and atmospheric science. These individuals, including five panelists who work in state, local, or federal environmental agencies, will work hard over the next two years to advise EPA in a manner consistent with the Clean Air Act and the protection of public health.”
But Goldman feels that both panels – CASAC and PM – are “essential,” EcoWatch reported.
“These review panels are comprised of experts on the pollutant under review specifically, allowing the agency to benefit from subject matter expertise,” Goldman. “For example, CASAC will include folks with air pollution modeling or monitoring expertise and epidemiologists, but the PM review panel might include experts on the toxicology of particulates or an expert on particulate measurement error. This is especially important because CASAC is small (seven people). No matter how expert, it would not be possible for this group to have working expertise of all elements of the relationship between a pollutant and health AND have that knowledge for all six criteria pollutants under CASAC’s purview. As a result, EPA decisions on pollution standards can benefit from scientific expertise on all facets of the science on particulates and health.”
Critics speculate the Trump administration is trying to “fast-track the air quality standards review process” and replace it with their own before the end of Trump’s four years, EcoWatch reported.