City of Austin, TX employee E.-USGS co-author, Coal Tar Free America blogger and paid ban activist

One vocal ban activist is city employee E. who works for the City of Austin, TX.  E’s blog, Coal Tar Free America, promotes banning CTS pavement sealer.  As to the accuracy of the claim made on E’s blog, let’s just say there are too many errors to mention in just this one posting.  


There are several facts about E. that most people do not know about:


-City employee E. is a co-author of one of the USGS paper published in Environmental Science and Technology.  If you notice in the author section, E is listed under Designs4Earth, Inc.  It seems that E. and former city employee B. were owners/employees of this small company.  If you refer to the supplementary information section of this study, you will find the method how different types of sealants were distinguished.  This method (referred to as the coffee/tea test) had a patent pending at the time, which was held by Designs4Earth, Inc (see bottom of page one).  


-E. also works for the City of Austin, TX.  From information gather from multiple sources, E worked as a paid ban activist (by the city) to encourage bans in other cities and towns.  These same sources confirmed that E. acted as a conduit for ban activities for other scientists.  The USGS scientists acknowledged the role that E. played and referred various individuals to E. so that it is not apparent that USGS were acting as ban advocates.  E. activist activities were not a secret to the major actors within MPCA, EPA, University of New Hampshire, and Washington District Department of the Environment (and others) as E. was frequently involved in the talk of bans in locations other than Austin.  


-E.admitted to MPCA employees that as of 2011, the City of Austin was not paying him to continue his activist activities.  It would appear that is when his blog, Coal Tar Free America appeared.  E. still continues to act as a ban activist.


Several questions come to mind:


-How did City of Austin decide that paying an employee to act as an activist was a good use of tax dollars?  Especially considering most of this activity was outside the city.


-USGS management knew about E’s activist activities and that Designs4Earth owned the test method that was used in the USGS studies.  There are two obvious conflicts of interests that are apparent in this case.  What did USGS do to mitigate this bias and conflict of interest?  USGS failed to disclose to the journal of the financial interest E. had in the test method held by his company.

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