Posts Tagged ‘Merck’

New Front in War On Science – Lawsuit filed to Obtain Smoking Guns

September 29th, 2009 No comments


[Update: Star Ledger covers this story:  N.J. environment group claims DEP denial of records request violated state law ]

We recently warned of a Hostile Takeover of DEP Science – Industry Seeks to Stack Board with Cronies , the latest in an orchestrated  War on Science by politically powerful polluters and developers in NJ. The Star Ledger reported on that in a September 20, 2009 story: Scientists line up to join DEP’s controversial new advisory panel.

IMG_2703Since then, we received additional leaked DEP documents and emails which show that the NJ Chemistry Council (the trade group and lobbyist for NJ’s chemical industries) is seeking to have Dupont and Merck scientists appointed members of a controversial new DEP Science Advisory Board. Similar industry efforts to stack federal Science Advisory Boards during the Bush administration were repudiated by scientists. A Science magazine editorial “Advice without Dissent” hit the nail on the head:

The Bush administration has made some unwise recent moves that undermine the process by which scientists provide advice to the U.S. government. The applicable current law (the Federal Advisory Committee Act), which requires these advisory bodies to “. . . be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and . . . not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest,” is more than empty boilerplate….

Instead of grappling with scientific ambiguity and shaping public policy using the best available evidence (the fundamental principle underlying public health and environmental regulation), we can now expect these committees to emphasize the uncertainties of health and environmental risks, supporting the administration’s antiregulatory views. And in those areas where there are deeply held conflicts in values, we can expect only silence. Regulatory paralysis appears to be the goal here, rather than the application of honest balanced science.

In fact, DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello is meeting with the Chemistry Council this Thursday  to discus SAB appointments. Commissioner Mauriello, in contrast to federal law that mandates balance and prohibits inappropriate influence by special interests, has virtually unbounded discretion to appoint SAB members.

So, with some of the documents already in hand, I filed an OPRA request to obtain all of them. But in an attempt to keep this chemical industry campaign a covert war, DEP denied the OPRA request.

In response, today, PEER filed a lawsuit against DEP seeking all the documents. We are confident that we will prevail in this lawsuit and that the documents will disclose industry pressure to politicize science at DEP and protect polluters from DEP regulations.

This industry effort must be derailed. Formal industry control over DEP science would have profoundly detrimental impacts on the health of residents and the natural environment.

See below press release for details.

For Immediate Release: Monday, September 28, 2009

Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Industry Moves to Take Over Jersey Eco-Science Board

DEP Sued to Force Release of Lobbying Messages for Industry-Backed Scientists 

Trenton  – Industry wants to pack a new state environmental Science Advisory Board with its own scientists, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which today filed a lawsuit to obtain public records regarding the industry lobbing effort. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Mark Mauriello is reportedly making final picks for the 12-member board this week after meeting with the Chemistry Industry Council this Thursday.

The suit challenges the denial by DEP of an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request filed by PEER seeking public records related to industry nominees and political lobbying for the Science Advisory Board (SAB) appointments. The DEP broadly claimed that practically all the requested documents are exempt from OPRA on the grounds that the pending appointments will be treated like candidates for employment, and thus confidential. Board members, however, are not DEP employees, nor would they be paid.

“DEP cannot make public records secret on the basis of an analogy,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe who filed the document request. “Industry has a huge stake in getting friendly scientists on the board that will make the final recommendation on public health regulation.”

In late 2008, former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson abolished the Division of Science and Research, based in part on a recommendation of her Permit Efficiency Task Force, chaired by Chris Daggett, now an independent candidate for Governor. The Science Advisory Board is supposed to substitute for the work formerly done by DEP scientists.

Thus far, more than 100 nominations have been submitted. Industry associations have put forward scientists from major manufacturers such as DuPont and Merck as well as from engineers and technical specialists from industry-oriented consultant firms. This Thursday, October 1st, Commissioner Mauriello, who chooses the board members, will meet behind closed doors with the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey, the primary lobby group representing state-based manufacturers.

In recent months, DEP scientific studies have been the subject of intense industry lobbying pressure to amend or suppress, on public health topics ranging from the effects of chemicals, such as PFOAs made by DuPont, to cement dust blowing through Camden neighborhoods. The Administrative Order creating the SAB specifies a conflict of interest review of board nominees but it is not clear what specific rules will be applied, except that members are not supposed to act on matters in which they have a “financial or personal interest“ terms left undefined.

“It appears that industry will soon be providing the final edits on all scientific work done at DEP,” added Wolfe. “Without transparency in the selection process, there will always be the doubt that this board will more concerned with political science than environmental science.”

The OPRA lawsuit was filed today on behalf of PEER by Michael Pisauro of the Princeton-based firm of Frascella & Pisauro, LLC.


Read the PEER lawsuit

View DEP denial of record release under OPRA

Review the Science Advisory Board charter

Look at the ongoing war by industry against DEP science

Examine the tactics of DuPont