Washington, DC — President Bush’s nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research program will increase corporate influence over agency science, according to a letter of opposition released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Today, the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works is slated to vote on the nomination of George M. Gray to serve as the Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Research and Development. ORD is EPA’s science branch and consists of 2,000 employees, located in three national laboratories, four national centers, and two offices divided among 14 facilities across the country.
Currently, Gray runs a Center for Risk Analysis housed at Harvard University. The majority of funding for Gray’s center comes from corporate sources. Much of that corporate support comes in the form of unrestricted grants. The balance is earmarked by corporate underwriters for very specific research tasks.
“The list of George Gray’s corporate sponsors reads like a murderer’s row of the top polluters in the country,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that in his written answers to questions submitted by the Committee, Gray indicates that he intends to continue and perhaps expand solicitation of corporate research funds. “This nominee gives every indication that he will put EPA’s research program on the market, continuing his professional pattern of soliciting funds from any source.”
In the past several months, EPA has been plagued by reports of political suppression of scientific results on issues ranging from global warming to asbestos to mercury regulation. ORD has even gone so far as to launch a public relations campaign, entitled “Science for You,” using agency research funds to burnish its tarnished image.
PEER expresses the concern that EPA’s research priorities will be influenced by the desires and generous grants of corporate underwriters.
“Injecting outside money into a public agency research program, especially when it is tied to particular projects has a subtle but undeniable influence on not only what work gets done but also how that work is reported,” Ruch added.
The group also notes Gray’s lack of administrative experience or background of working with EPA, pointing to internal agency surveys showing growing distrust by scientists of agency management and sagging faith in ORD’s future.
“As what was one of the top public health research program slides toward dysfunction, nothing about the background, attitude or philosophy of Mr. Gray suggests that he is even remotely the right person for this job,” Ruch concluded.