During his tenure as Director of Toxicology for the state of Texas, Michael Honeycutt — now the top science adviser for the Environmental Protection Agency after his appointment in 2017 — argued that reducing air pollution could be dangerous, according to NPR.
Speaking on Houston Public Radio in 2015, Honeycutt said the EPA’s efforts to tighten ozone regulations would result in people’s deaths.
"Houston and Los Angeles are going to lose people. People are going to die," he said. "According to EPA, people are going to die from lowering these standards," he continued, referring to the proposed tightening of ozone regulations.
But Elena Craft, the senior health scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund in Texas, said Honeycutt was misrepresenting the truth when he made such statements.
"He misrepresents the science. Pollution is not good for your health,” she told NPR.
Honeycutt’s views on air pollution lie far outside scientific consensus, Craft said, noting that he pulled data from “an appendix of a massive EPA ozone analysis that found ozone levels in some particularly polluted neighborhoods could temporary increase as the overall amount of air pollution decreased.”
In reality, once the amount of air pollution fell below a particular level, ozone levels would also drop, the EPA predicted, offering a long-term benefit to human health in the region.
Honeycutt failed to mention this portion of the report.
"His positions generally are totally inconsistent with mainstream thinking,” Craft said. “There's just never enough evidence to persuade him on environmental issues.” She added, "It's frightening, honestly."
NPR pointed to other times Honeycutt rebuffed scientific consensus on toxicology issues, including his 2011 comments on the regulation of mercury, when he wrote to a congressional committee member that: "Methyl mercury is a toxic chemical, but the scientific data overwhelmingly do not support EPA's position on the health risk of mercury.”
During that same testimony, NPR noted, “Honeycutt criticized the EPA for overstating the health hazards posed by hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen made famous by Erin Brockovich, as well as formaldehyde and arsenic.”
The Center for Public Integrity found in 2014 that Honeycutt’s views on regulatory efforts generally reflect industry interests — and he put those views to work in Texas, loosening restrictions on dozens of chemicals.