GOP congressmen are upset EPA won't be packed with fossil fuel consultants

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Louis Anthony 'Tony' Cox allowed the oil and gas industry to edit a study playing down the link between pollution and asthma.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee expressed outrage on Wednesday at the Biden administration's decision to remove a slate of Trump-appointed individuals from Environmental Protection Agency advisory boards, including Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox, who has extensive ties to the oil industry and had been accused of using his position in the interests of industry propaganda instead of those of science.

Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Ralph Norman (R-SC) sent a letter to EPA administrator Michael Regan expressing concern over his decision to "abruptly fire all Trump administration appointed members" of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and Science Advisory Board.

The congressmen demand that Regan provide them with documents and information pertaining to the removals, which they characterize as "unprecedented." They accuse the Biden administration of purging officials "who do not share its political beliefs."

In a March interview with the Associated Press, Regan said the removals were part of the Biden administration's determination to "reset" the boards.

"We have to identify and root out any decisions from the past that were not properly aligned with science," Regan said.

In a March 31 press release announcing the changes, the EPA noted that the Trump administration hadn't followed standard procedures for appointing committee members, had prevented individuals who had previously received EPA grants from serving, and had eliminated key air pollution review panels.

"Resetting these two scientific advisory committees will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment," Regan said.

Cox was put in place by EPA chief Scott Pruitt in 2017 to lead the panel on air pollution. He had previously served as a consultant for the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying group bankrolled by major oil and gas companies.

Cox produced a report for the group in 2017 that claimed asthma is associated more with income levels than with particulate matter in the atmosphere, a finding that runs contrary to those of many other studies that do link pollution and asthma. Cox later said that he allowed the Institute to "proofread" and "copy edit" his research.

On the EPA advisory board, Cox attacked existing EPA methods for calculating the public health benefits of smog regulations, describing them as "unreliable, logically unsound, and inappropriate."

When Cox was reappointed to his position in 2020, Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Cox is "uninterested in following the careful science-based process that EPA has followed for decades to set science-based and health-protective air pollution standards."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.