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Frey, EPA Advisory Board make news

Dr. Chris FreyDr. H. Christopher Frey, the Glenn E. Futrell Distinguished University Professor of environmental engineering in CCEE, made national news earlier this month as a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board.

The Science Advisory Board (SAB) is comprised of experts external to the EPA. The SAB is required by law to review EPA planned regulatory actions to determine if EPA has developed and obtained proper peer review for the science needed to support regulatory decisions. Dr. Frey is in his sixth year of service on the Board.

In recent months, the EPA has proposed a regulation for “transparency” in regulatory science that would restrict some types of scientific studies from being used in rulemaking. The EPA has also proposed rolling back several existing standards, including the Clean Power Plan and other power plant emission standards, the light duty vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards, and a key provision of the heavy duty vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards.

Dr. Frey served on an SAB working group that developed recommendations for the full board with regard to these planned actions. With regard to the transparency rule, the working group found that EPA had not engaged in an open process, had oversimplified some points, and had failed to adequately characterize the impact of the proposal. With regard to the emission regulations, the working group found that EPA had not adequately identified or used relevant science, had not indicated any plan to do so, and had not indicated any plan to obtain adequate peer review. Therefore, the work group recommended that all of these EPA actions be reviewed by the full board.

The SAB is comprised of 44 members, including 18 members appointed by EPA Administrator Pruitt in November 2017 after he implemented a directive to ban researchers with active EPA research grants from serving on the board. The SAB had its first face-to-face meeting that included the new members on May 31 to June 1, during which the full board adopted the working group’s recommendations with only two opposing votes. The next step is for the SAB to communicate to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt its intent to review the scientific basis of the planned actions and to work with EPA to set a schedule for the review activities.

The SAB activities to identify EPA planned actions for review have been extensively covered in the trade and scientific press, including interviews of Dr. Frey by Bloomberg Environment & Energy Report, InsideEPA, Politico, Science, and Scientific American.