NAS Coal Combustion Appointees Off Committee

Panel Still Consists of Several Members With Industry Ties


Citizen groups who protested the flagrant conflicts of interest of several appointees to the National Academy of Sciences’ committee studying the health effects of Mine Placement of Coal Combustion Wastes welcomed yesterday’s announcement that coal industry lobbyist Edward Green is no longer a member of the committee and that Dr. Patricia Buffler, who frequently consults for the Electric Power Research Institute, has resigned.

“It’s imperative that this committee, which will evaluate the harm this practice is doing to coal field communities across the nation, carry out its mission in an open and unbiased way,” said Lisa Evans, senior attorney for the Clean Air Task Force. “To improve the panel’s make-up and comply with federal law, the NAS must add scientists who acknowledge the environmental damage resulting from the dumping of coal combustion waste in mines. There are still four committee members with direct conflicts of interest and other ties to the coal and utility industries.”

“We’re glad the NAS moved quickly to correct one flaw in the panel’s make-up,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The Federal Advisory Committee Act prohibits professionals with direct conflicts of interest from serving on advisory committees. Appointing a coal industry lobbyist to serve on a committee studying the health effects of dumping coal combustion wastes in abandoned coal mines was an obvious violation of the law.”

On October 26, 2004, 42 citizen groups wrote to National Academy President Bruce Alberts protesting the conflicts of interest and lack of balance on the Mine Placement of Coal Combustion Wastes study committee. The committee was commissioned by Congress to study the health effects of this practice, and thus comes under the rules of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. FACA precludes professionals with conflicts of interest from serving on federal advisory committees and requires that panels be balanced with regards to points of view expressed. 

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