Indiana University Professor Appointed as Chair of EPA’s Science Advisory Board

Former O’Neill SPEA dean Professor John Graham will head panel of industry and academic experts that advise the EPA administrator.
October 21, 2020

An Indiana University professor has been appointed as chair of an advisory panel tasked with advising the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator on scientific and technical aspects of agency actions.

Professor John Graham, former dean of IU’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, was appointed as chair of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler Oct. 14.

“I’ve known John for years and he is really one of the best environmental scholars this country has to offer,” Wheeler said. “His advice has been influential during his time on the SAB and I am looking to his future advice as board chair.”

Graham served as a member of the board for three years prior to his elevation and has worked with the board as a consultant.

Between 1990 and 2001, while serving as founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Graham acted as a consultant for the board during several health risk assessments of dioxin in the 1990s and early 2000s.

He previously held a federal government position during the George W. Bush administration, serving as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the central authority for the review of federal regulations, government information collections, federal statistical practices and the coordination of federal privacy policy.

In a paper released after he left the administration, Graham described his time at OIRA.

“During the Administration of George W. Bush, OIRA embraced a ‘smart regulation’ approach that was neither pro- nor anti-regulation. Under this approach, OIRA evaluated the merits of each rulemaking on a case-by-case basis using insights from economics, science, engineering, and law,” his analysis stated.

Graham’s application of benefit-cost analysis in the evaluation of health and safety benefits during his tenure, including a formula that placed more value on the lives of younger people than older ones, was proposed to justify regulatory rollbacks during the Bush administration.

Under fire, the EPA said it never used the formula for decision-making and never would. Graham then pivoted the OIRA to analyzing the effect of a regulation on life expectancy.

His academic work and precedents set during his time as OIRA administrator have been cited in Trump administration environmental policy rollbacks like the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards and the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

Graham has also argued against some Trump administration proposals. He was part of a team of IU researchers that found that Trump administration proposals to freeze Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for vehicles would harm the economy and cost consumers money.

The SAB, which Graham is set to chair, is made up of scientists with ties to industry and academia. Board members serve three-year terms on the board and as part of subcommittees that review EPA actions.

The next Science Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12. The board will discuss changing the way the EPA prepares economic analyses when evaluating the economic consequences of its regulations and policies.

Indiana University Professor Appointed as Chair of EPA’s Science Advisory Board