Scientists may have lied about the Environmental Protection Agency’s involvement in a recent study put out earlier this year claiming Obama administration regulations on carbon dioxide emissions will save thousands of lives every year.
Emails obtained by the blog JunkScience.com’s Steve Milloy show Harvard University and Syracuse University researchers involved in the study consulted with the EPA while conducting their study, contradicting their previous statements the study was done independently of the agency.
“Emails obtained from EPA through the Freedom of Information Act show that Harvard University, Syracuse University and two researchers falsely claimed a study supporting EPA’s upcoming global warming rules was conducted ‘independent’ of the agency,” Milloy wrote.
In May, scientists released a study finding the EPA’s so-called “Clean Power Plan” — which aims to reduce CO2 emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 — would prevent 3,500 premature deaths every year because cutting CO2 emissions will also lower traditional air pollutants and allegedly save lives.
The Clean Power Plan is the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s climate agenda, so positive study’s like the Harvard-Syracuse one are welcomed by the White House and the EPA. Indeed, the EPA sent out favorable statements on the study’s release.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told The Washington Post the study showed the Clean Power Plan “is on the right track.” She said the “benefits are in addition to the benefits that will be realized by addressing a changing climate.”
The study claimed to be done independently of EPA influence, and researchers declared there was no conflict of interest in their study. Harvard University and media reports stressed the study as “independent.”
Study co-author Jonathan Buonocore of Harvard told U.S. News and World Report the EPA “did not participate in the study or interact with its authors” adding that “[w]ork on the paper began even before the EPA unveiled the Clean Power Plan.”
Lead author Charles Driscoll of Syracuse also said work on their study began before the Clean Power Plan was proposed and told The New York Times it “was a coincidence that one of the researchers’ models so closely resembled the federal proposal.”
Milloy, however, uncovered emails showing the study’s authors were in fact communicating with the EPA during the course of their study, setting up meetings to learn about the Clean Power Plan and meeting with key agency staffers to go over data.
On July 8, 2014 Harvard-Syracuse study author Kathy Lambert sent an email to EPA staffers Bryan Hubbell and Linda Chappell, the agency’s contact person for the Clean Power Plan’s cost-benefit analysis. Also copied on the email were Driscoll and Buonocore.
In the email, Lamberth works with EPA officials to set up a conference call with the research team to “discuss methods for our next set of analyses.” Lamberth also asks the EPA for “IPM results for illustrative cases of [the] proposed carbon standard.”
In a follow-up email, EPA’s Chappell responded, saying she would loop in Amanda Curry-Brown who was responsible for the regulatory impact analysis “for the CPP final rule.”
Another email from Harvard’s Driscoll to EPA staffer Ellen Kurlansky sent on July 15, 2014, talks about how the study had been well-received by other groups (they aren’t specified) and even asks for help fundraising for the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant.
Milloy also found that authors involved in the Harvard-Syracuse study received or were involved with $45 million in EPA research grants. Driscoll has received or been involved with $3,654,608 in EPA grants and Buonocore has gotten $9,588 in grants. One of the study’s co-authors Joel Schwartz has received or been involved in in EPA grants.
“Now how could Schwartz’s $31,176,575 or Levy’s $9,514,361 or Driscoll’s $3,654,608 from EPA possibly be considered as a ‘competing financial interest’ in an article they wrote in support of EPA’s flagship regulatory effort?” Milloy asked in a blog post.
Study co-author Jonathan Levy told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the definition of what constitutes a competing financial interest is set by the journal the study gets published in. Levy said “competitive grants awarded by EPA or other federal funders meet none of these criteria and therefore do not qualify as a competing interest.”
Levy, nor any of the study’s other authors, responded to The DCNF’s questions about the emails uncovered by Milloy.