Gutting the Scientific Review Panel?

Author:  Damien M. Schiff

I've written several times here about PLF's lawsuit, Brown v. Adams, challenging the failure of a number of state officials to abide by their nominating and appointing obligations as regards members of the Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants (SRP).  The SRP is a supposed to be an independent body of scientific experts that advises the California Air Resources Board, among other agencies, over proposed regulations designed to protect the public health.  PLF filed suit in June, 2009, challenging the fact that many members of the panel had overstayed their original three-year terms; one member had been holding over for over a decade.  The Sacramento Superior Court, in December, 2009, issued a very favorable tentative decision.  Meanwhile, the appointing authorities had requested nominations from the UC President, and both sides agreed to continue the matter to allow new appointments to be made.

In the last several months, a total of five new appointments have been made to the SRP.  We at PLF view these appointments as the result of our lawsuit.  A recent article from California Watch reports on how the sudden change in the SRP's make-up has disturbed remaining members.  Former member Dr. John Froines is quoted as saying, "Normally what happens is we get reappointed, or the state just continues us."  Dr. Paul Blanc, a still-serving SRP member, describes the SRP as having "been gutted," because of the new appointments, and that these will, in the short-term, "cripple the committee."

It's unfortunate that these individuals view their positions as sinecures.  The SRP was not designed to be a place where scientists would remain indefinitely.  The legislature very clearly set forth in the Health and Safety Code the manner whereby members would obtain their SRP positions; part of that legislative scheme includes a three-year term limitation.  To be sure, nothing stops a member from being renominated and reappointed.  Apparently, the members who were not reappointed were not renominated by the UC President.  Instead other, presumably qualifed scientists were selected.  Where is the injustice in that?