EPA Finds Quality of Unreliable USGS Studies Of Refined Coal Tar “Sufficient for their Intended Uses”

Agency declines to cite studies that “question the validity” of problematic findings

ALEXANDRIA, Va.Feb. 10, 2016 — The United States Environmental Protection Agency has denied the Pavement Coatings Technology Council’s (PCTC) Request for Correction (RFC) of information nearly two years after PCTC submitted an appeal under the EPA’s Information Quality Guidelines (IQGs).

PCTC asked EPA to correct information on its web site and in a “fact sheet” based on US Geological Survey (USGS) studies demonstrated to be unreliable.

In one such study, the method used to identify refined coal tar-based pavement sealant (RTS) as a source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in urban sediments could not be reproduced. A summary of post-publication peer reviews (PPPRs) and attempts to replicate the study is available on the PPPR web site, PubPeer.com. PCTC’s letter to the editor of the journal Environmental Science & Technology arguing why that paper should be retracted can be accessed here.

In its refusal, “EPA determined the USGS studies cited in the CADDIS webpage and stormwater BMP fact sheet to be sufficient for the intended use. EPA also declines to modify the EPA…webpage or the stormwater…fact sheet to include references to the PCTC-sponsored studies which question the validity of findings by the USGS and others that coal tar sealcoat is a significant source of PAHs in the environment.”

Scientific experts conducted PPPRs of a number of relevant studies performed by the USGS and others. Summaries of the PPPRs with links to relevant documents are posted on PubPeer’s web site here. The majority of the USGS studies of RTS (as well as publications by others that relied on USGS studies) have been shown to be unreliable and thus, under criteria set by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), should be retracted.

PCTC strongly disagrees with and questions the EPA’s use of unreliable studies that can’t be reproduced as examples in its causal analysis guidelines and fact sheets, given EPA’s obligations under its IQGs. More generally, PCTC views the EPA’s refusal to cite peer-reviewed studies that question the validity of findings by the USGS or others as contrary to the principles of an agency that claims “Science provides the foundation for Agency policies, actions, and decisions made on behalf of the American people.”

PCTC is planning to file an appeal within the 90-day timeframe established by the EPA


About PCTC PCTC members are manufacturers of pavement sealants and their suppliers. PCTC is a not-for-profit trade association engaged in research, education, training and communications with the goal of improving the public’s understanding of the pavement coatings business. Most of the companies involved in the pavement coatings industry are small and medium size businesses that generate well-paying jobs and support local economies. They are the types of businesses that are proud to be a part of your community. Please visit PCTC’s website to learn more.

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