The Repace Purge

October 31, 2004 10:59 pm by Gene Borio

One of the oddest events of Mr. Rupp’s 2nd day of testimony Thursday occurred during his cross by Mr. Webb, when Mr. Rupp described an incident in which the industry had tried to get a scientist (unnamed) removed from the EPA’s ETS Risk Assessment study.

Ms. Eubanks began her redirect by asking Mr. Rupp, “That scientist was James Repace, wasn’t it?” and then began a ringing defense of Repace, asserting that the TI had wanted Repace fired from the EPA. Some sample dialog (paraphrased):

Ms. Eubanks: You took actions to get him in trouble, Yes or No?

Mr. Rupp: No

Ms. Eubanks: You took no action that might have led to a disciplinary action?

Mr. Rupp: We were not trying to cause him problems in his job, we were asking the EPA to eliminate what we saw as a conflict of interest. There were lots of other activities he could have done.

Ms. Eubanks: You are not an official to make such a judgement. . . . You never once suggested any other projects, did you?

Mr. Rupp: We thought it inappropriate for us to suggest what else he could do. We were not asking for disciplinary action; we were just pointing out a conflict of interest.

Ms. Eubanks’ knowledge of this event and spirited defense of Mr. Repace startled me because:

1) Repace is mentioned only twice, and minimally, in the 1500 pages or so of the governments “Proposed Findings of Fact” and “Factual Memo,” and

2) the dialogue with Webb came late in the day–so her defense of Mr. Repace within hours apparently came off the top of her head, bespeaking an extensive depth of knowledge of the issue that goes beyond even the Government’s case.

Even odder, though: why did Rupp and Wells bring up this event in the first place? It’s a rather ugly incident, and eventually involved a US Legislator, Representative Don Sundquist (R-TN),* who in March of 1987 sent a letter to the head of EPA, Lee Thomas, denouncing Repace for personal misconduct–an action that triggered a seven-month investigation of Repace for possible conflicts of interest. Repace had testified in lawsuits, labor grievance hearings and as a citizen in favor of smoking regulations; Sundquist charged these actions made Repace incapable of granting a fair hearing to tobacco company submissions.

The really ugly part: the detailed information on Repace’s fees (while on leave from the EPA) in Sundquist’s letter came from the tobacco industry, according to a Sundquist aide. This is verified by a May, 1987 memo from Susan Stuntz to Peter Sparber:

We quietly provided the documentation on Repace’s activities to Rep. Don Sundquist of Tennessee. He wrote EPA Administrator Lee Thomas for an explanation, including that documentation in his letter. That request has triggered an investigation of Repace’s activities by the Inspector General.

* Sundquist later served 2 terms as Governor of Tennessee 1995-2003.

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