The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it had appointed Michael Honeycutt, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's chief toxicologist, as chairman of the federal agency's Science Advisory Board.

“I am pleased and honored to bring my knowledge and experience to this prestigious panel,” Honeycutt said in a statement. “It is my goal to direct the other members of the SAB to bring sound science to the reviews that we will make in advising the administrator.”

During his time at TCEQ, Honeycutt courted controversy for leading the fight against an Obama administration push to toughen federal standards on ozone levels, telling the Tribune in a 2014 interview, "I haven't seen the data that says lowering ozone will produce a health benefit. In fact, I've seen data that shows it might have a negative health benefit."

Under his management, TCEQ scientists concluded that the public health benefit of lowering ozone levels in Texas cities was not worth the cost of added pollution regulations — a conclusion several Texas-based environmental scientists dispute.

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“He’s got a bad history as chief toxicologist,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen Texas, a nonprofit organization that works on environmental issues, in an interview Tuesday. "He's systematically lowered air quality standards during his time at TCEQ."

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Most scientists believe less ozone pollution in the air Americans breathe would make people healthier. Texas' environmental regulators disagree. [Full story]

  • The state’s environmental regulatory agency on Wednesday rebuffed a coalition of border residents and environmental activists who hoped to halt a coal mine from expanding its operations near the Rio Grande. [Full story]

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