In Reversal, EPA to Add ‘Very Important’ Expertise to Air Quality Panel

JCDH’s North Birmingham air quality monitoring station. (Source: Hank Black)

More scientific help is on the way for the committee charged with providing independent advice to the federal government on whether to change its air quality standards.

Local air quality expert Corey Masuca, one of the seven members of the committee, said he “is delighted” with the decision by Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to add consultants for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, known as CASAC.

CASAC is under a tight deadline to trudge through hundreds of new studies and advise Wheeler on potential changes in National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and, later, for ozone.

The EPA administrator had come under fire from CASAC members and others for disbanding last fall longstanding adjunct panels of experts to assist the committee.

Wheeler rebuffed calls for him to reconstitute those groups and in July announced he would call for nominations for a smaller panel. A notice in today’s Federal Register sets a 14-day deadline for nominations for specialists with backgrounds in biostatistics, epidemiology and other disciplines.

Masuca, who heads the Jefferson County Department of Health air and radiation division, said, “It’s a positive in all our eyes that we will be allowed access to this panel of experts.” He is “hopeful that someone will be nominated who is an epidemiologist or has an epidemiology background – it’s a very important role.”

Most science behind developing air standards involves epidemiology,” he said. Currently, no member of CASAC has that expertise.

His committee will meet in October to review documents. It is slated to finalize its report in December 2020.