John D. Graham

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John D. Graham is the 4th dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, one of the leading public affairs and environmental schools in the country. He is the former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Office of Management and Budget in the George W. Bush administration. According to a biographical note on the White House website, Graham's "responsibilities include coordination of regulatory review, paperwork reduction, statistical policy and information policy in the Federal government."

Prior to joining the Bush administration he was a Professor of Policy and Decision Sciences in the Faculty of Public Health at Harvard University. He founded and was director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis from 1990 to 2001.[1]

According to his biographical note Graham earned "his BA from Wake Forest University, his MA from Duke University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University. He served as a pre-doctoral fellow at the Brookings Institution and as a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Graham has written seven books and more than 100 scientific articles and is best known for his scholarship on automotive safety and environmental policy."

Opposition to Graham's nomination

John Graham's appointment to the OIRA was hotly contested by scientists, doctors, public health professionals and environmental, consumer and labor organizations, as well as many of his own academic peers, who questioned his science and his ethical practices. His application of cost-benefit analyses to industrial pollution is controversial and tends to favor polluters by systematically overstating the costs of regulation to industry and underestimating the cost to those affected. As founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, his acceptance of funding from America's largest corporate polluters, including Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Alcoa, Exxon, General Electric and General Motors, was considered a conflict of interest. No environmental or consumer group is represented on the center's advisory board.

Graham has argued that smog protects people from too much sunlight, dioxin might reduce cancer in some cases, safe housing codes can kill people and pesticides on foods are a trivial problem that does not constitute a health hazard. In addition, "he claims that our choice of environmental regulations contributes to the death of 60,000 people under a theory he calls 'statistical murder'." [2]

A letter signed by 53 academics from across the country opposed Graham's nomination and questioned his credibility and scientific integrity. They stated: "Professor Graham's controversial risk management methodology discounts the real risks of well-documented pollutants such as dioxin and benzene, and makes use of extreme and highly-disputed economic assumptions. Professor Graham has shown his willingness to over-ride health, safety, environmental, civil rights, and other social goals in applying crude cost-benefit tools far past the point at which they can be justified by existing scientific and economic data... Moreover, Professor Graham has publicly rendered many opinions on complex and imperfectly understood scientific phenomena, such as the etiology of cancer and other diseases, despite his lack of a degree in the hard sciences. " It concluded: "Graham's work has, overall, demonstrated a remarkable congruency with the interests of regulated industries. In contrast, the position at OIRA requires a much more even-handed approach." [3]

Graham's role as regulatory gatekeeper

As administrator of the OIRA, John Graham has much more discretion than it would appear at first glance. He serves as the nation's regulatory gatekeeper, passing judgment on all major national health, safety, and environmental standards. Acting as "a sort of 'regulatory czar' who can block any new regulation, whether arsenic standards for drinking water, worker-protection rules or the public's right to know about toxic chemicals," Graham's position is a crucial one for overseeing essential consumer protections.[4] He has further extended his influence by appropriating the authority to carry out laws entrusted by Congress to heads of agencies such as the EPA.

Given his history of favoring industry and weakened government regulations, Graham's record since he took the post of administrator is not surprising. In ways that are always beneficial to industry, he has strong-armed agencies to weaken programs and promoted changes in scientific and economic assumptions that pervert the regulatory process. The list of Graham's pro-industry regulatory changes is extensive. A sampling includes: the purging of a backlog of violations against the Clean Air Act, adoption of a developer-financed study that claims wetlands emit more pollutants than they absorb, and elimination of OSHA ergonomics regulations that protected Americans from repetitive stress injuries.

According to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and the senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, under Graham's supervision "[the] Environmental Protection Agency has halted work on 62 environmental standards, the federal Department of Agriculture has stopped work on 57 standards, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has halted 21 new standards. The EPA completed just two major rules--both under court order and both watered down at industry request--compared to 23 completed by the Clinton administration and 14 by the Bush Sr. administration in their first two years." [5]

As predicted by many of his colleagues at Harvard, Graham's "persistent pattern of conflict of interest, of obscuring and minimizing dangers to human health with questionable cost-benefit analyses, and of hostility to governmental regulation in general," has proven highly detrimental to the health and safety of the very citizens his office was designated to protect. [6]

"The easy, kind of sophomoric criticism you'll hear from some of the activists is, `These guys just look at the money and they don't care about anything else.' That's not an accurate characterization," Graham told the Seattle Times.[7]

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