Monday, August 29, 2016

Is the Dirty-AirBnB Crew Trying to Stage a CASAC Coup?

Recently, we reported on Dirty-AirBnB, an effort by key lobbyists and polluters such as Koch and ExxonMobil to block new smog standards and weaken the Clean Air Act through campaign contributions to a Texas congressman.

Now some of those key players seem to be shifting their offensive to a different battlefield -- this time in concert with a controversial Texas scientist. In an excellent story you might have missed, Greenwire on Friday noted the "rare" campaign to place an industry-friendly state scientist on a key EPA clean air panel.

The scientist, Michael Honeycutt, is the chief toxicologist with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  He has been a fierce critic of tougher public health standards for ozone, or smog.   In the process, he has become a darling for the oil and gas industries.

And now the love is really starting to show!

Here's what's at stake: The U.S. EPA receives vital advice on major, nationwide air pollution standards from a seven-member science advisory panel called the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, often referred to as CASAC.  These are supposed to be independent scientists representing relevant disciplines. They are appointed for a three-year term by the head of the EPA, and they can be renewed for a second three.

EPA is not legally bound to follow the panel's recommendations, but the committee does tend to define the parameters of such agency decisions as the appropriate level for national health standards for ozone, fine-particle soot, etc.  (Here, for example, was the panel on EPA's most recent effort to update ozone standards .)

And now there's a committee vacancy coming up for a scientist representing state governments.  Can you guess who industry wants on that panel?

As Greenwire noted, Honeycutt is making a hard pitch to join the panel.  Well and good. It is certainly his right.

But what caught our attention is that his bid is being supported by such major industry groups as ExxonMobil, Shell, Valero, the Koch-backed Mercatus Center, Western Refining, the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners, the chemical industry, the Texas Association of Manufacturers and the Texas Oil and Gas Association.

Others supporters of note: Bracewell LLP (representing the boiler owners) and Hunton & Williams, representing The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) Implementation Coalition as well as Hunton's Chuck Knauss, an ExxonMobil lobbyist specifically fighting against the ozone standards. Hunter & Williams also lobbies for Koch Industries. (For more on Bracewell and Hunton & Williams, see our report DirtyAirBnB at )  

[The Texas Observer wrote about Honeycutt's CASAC campaign on Aug. 11 ]

Having an industry-friendly guy on this science panel would be a huge coup -- especially if, by chance, the courts block the new EPA ozone standard and order the agency to take another look at it. 

Is it coincidence that many of the industry groups backing Honeycutt are either suing EPA over the ozone standards or are members of associations that are?  (For example, a Hunton & Williams lawyer is representing electric power companies in the suit.  The oil, chemical and manufacturing industries are also suing to block the smog standard.) Texas is one of 10 states also fighting the standards in court.

Honeycutt is controversial enough that, as Greenwire reported, seven Texas-based environmental groups have filed a letter opposing his appointment to the panel.  (Clean Air Watch did not oppose Honeycutt, though it did send a letter in support of another candidate, Bart Croes, Chief of the Research Division for the California Air Resources Board. Interestingly. Croes has been opposed by a noted EPA critic, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma) 

We will continue to monitor this situation closely.  For whatever reason, by the way, EPA has not posted the industry comments on its voluminous web site.  Greenwire tracked them down through a Freedom of Information Act request. Bravo! 

Here's a sample of the support for Honeycutt from ExxonMobil and from ExxonMobil lobbyist (and Hunton & Williams partner) Chuck Knauss: 

From: Hampton, Sherman W
To: Yeow, Aaron
Subject: Public Comment for Dr. Honeycutt (81 FR 19967-19969) Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 2:01:33 PM

Dear Mr. Yeow:
I am writing this in support of the nomination of Dr. Michael Honeycutt to the EPA Science Advisory Board. Dr. Honeycutt is bright and reasoned and has contributed significantly to the science of air pollution control toxicology and ozone science through his service to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. I have personally had professional interactions with him for several years and I cannot think of anyone more qualified nor better suited for this position.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss, please contact me via email or phone on one of the numbers below.
Sherman Hampton - State Advisor Exxon Mobil Corporation E-4.1B.367
22777 Springwoods Village Parkway Spring, Texas 77389

Office: 832-624-9834 Cell: 832-653-1996 


From: Knauss, Chuck
To: Yeow, Aaron
Subject: Letter in Support of Dr. Michael Honeycutt for Membership on the CASAC Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 4:56:35 PM
Attachments: removed.txt

2016-07-20 CASAC - Knauss Ltr Supporting Michael Honeycutt-c.pdf
Mr. Yeow,
Please find attached my letter in support of Dr. Michael Honeycutt for membership on the CASAC. Please kindly let me know by reply email that you received this letter.
Best regards,
p 202.419.2003 m 202.257.0628 bio | vCard
Hunton & Williams LLP
2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20037 


From: Pemberton, Brittany
To: Yeow, Aaron
Subject: Nomination of Dr. Michael Honeycutt for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 1:57:15 PM
Attachments: CIBO Letter in Support of CASAC Nomination (Honeycutt) - 07.12.16.pdf

Mr. Yeow,
Please find attached a letter by the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners in support of the nomination of Dr. Michael Honeycutt for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
T: +1.202.828.1708 | F: +1.800.404.3970 | M: +1.703.409.3335

2001 M Street, NW, Suite 900 | Washington, DC | 20036-3310 | profile | download v-card 

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