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The Case of Deborah Rice: Who Is the Environmental Protection Agency Protecting?

  • Herbert L Needleman
  • Published: May 13, 2008
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060129

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Response to Madhu, Peacock, Rabin

Posted by plosbiology on 07 May 2009 at 22:24 GMT

Author: Herbert Needleman
Position: Professsor
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
E-mail: hlnlead@pitt.edu
Submitted Date: May 21, 2008
Published Date: May 22, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Dr Madhu writes that while my sentiments are correct, my generalizations are “ridiculous”. He has lost faith in my credibility because I am skeptical about the probity of industry scientists. Perhaps his faith would be restored if he rereads my comment with greater care. I call attention to those “PhDs who wear the caps and gowns of the academy, while they embrace the mores of the marketplace.” A more careful rereading might persuade him that I specified my subjects for criticism not just by their employer, but by their behavior.

Assistant Administrator Peacock says that I have “jumped the gun” in chastising EPA for dismissing Dr Rice. He tells us that the agency’s IG was asked to investigate the firing of Dr Rice on April 10, 2008. He expects a report “soon.” In reference to my piece, he tells us “ I prefer reading nonfiction.”

In my brief note I pointed out that Deborah Rice was a former valued employee of EPA who had received one of the highest awards given by the Agency because of the quality of her science. She was selected to chair the committee on DECA by EPA. After the DECA report was completed, in response to complaints from the American Chemistry Council, she was summarily dismissed from her position as chair of the committee, and her name and all of her comments on the document were excised.

None of this is fiction, although it is difficult to believe that the Agency’s administrators would be capable of such an offensive action. If Mr. Peacock is looking for nonfiction, I recommend that he read the original report and the criticism of the ACC. If he has any spare time, he might read the New York Times report of the EPA’s overriding the report of his agency’s overruling its own Science Advisory Council to produce a weaker smog standard. It appears that this behavior is getting to be a habit.

I thank Dr Rabin for his comments.

Competing interests declared: I am a friend of Deborah Rice