EPA scientists continue research after Trump administration tried to shut them down


Members of the disbanded Particulate Matter Review Panel are now taking things into their own hands.

The Trump administration has done everything it can to try to suppress discussion of climate change, including disbanding an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) panels that study air pollution. But sometimes science wills out, as was the case with the members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee's (CASAC) Particulate Matter Review Panel.

After EPA chief Andrew Wheeler dissolved the Particulate Matter Review Panel in October 2018, the committee kept on working. Calling themselves the Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel, the group of experts met over the past year and have continued to provide scientific conclusions to the EPA. What they've found isn't pretty.

Though levels of particulate matter air pollution, such as soot, fell nearly 25% during President Barack Obama's two terms in office, the group found it may be trending upward again. Fossil fuels create fine particulate matter, as do frequent and severe fires like the ones California is currently experiencing. And the administration's disdain for science means that these problems aren't getting addressed.

Where the independent panel recommends tightening clean air standards to reverse the upward trend, the majority of the current members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee think the existing standards are just fine. That's in spite of what the independent panel called a "compelling" new study, the largest-ever U.S. fine particle study, which found "adverse health effects — including premature death — at exposure levels below current U.S. standards.

Another study published in October found that the rise in fine particle levels from 2016 to 2018 can be connected to roughly "9,700 premature deaths in 2018 that would not have occurred otherwise."

It wasn't the panel's first choice to go it alone. In April 2019, when the panel learned that its successor group had no epidemiologist, a necessity to analyze the health effects of pollution, it asked Wheeler to reinstate the Particulate Matter Review Panel. Wheeler refused and instead created a new group that isn't even allowed to talk to the existing Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Now, instead of working with leading climate scientists, the administration is working with climate change deniers, including, for a time, Princeton University emeritus professor William Happer, who has compared climate scientists to Nazis and ISIS.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.