CARB critic Enstrom appeals firing under whistleblower protection

| 9/1/2010

A California professor who has questioned CARB’s diesel emissions research will keep his job – at least until the appeals process runs its course.

Dr. James Enstrom, who has worked at UCLA for 36 years – the last 34 as associate research professor – was told his position ended as of Monday, Aug. 30, resulting from secret vote of faculty members in his department earlier in the month.

After being told he wouldn’t be employed after Aug. 30, Enstrom filed an appeal under UCLA’s Whistle Blower Protection Policies. Enstrom said Tuesday he received word that his employment would be extended until March 31, or “until the grievance process has been completed.”

Enstrom made headlines in recent years after he questioned claims made by CARB regarding diesel particulate matter and public health. Enstrom’s research on diesel emissions showed no causal link between diesel soot and early death for Californians.

He also said he may have made enemies when he questioned the Scientific Review Panel of Toxic Air Contaminates for not complying with state-required three-year term limits.

One such panel member was Dr. John Froines, who was recently kicked off the panel after serving 26 years. Froines, who earned notoriety during political riots in the late ’60s as one of the “Chicago Seven,” now teaches at the UCLA School of Public Health. 

In interviews with Land Line in August, Enstrom said he likely irked top officials at CARB between 2008 and 2009, when he questioned science used to justify the implementation of CARB’s Truck and Bus rule, also known as the Retrofit Rule. The rule requires trucking fleets to install diesel particulate filters and upgrade their truck engines beginning in 2012, though several amendments to the rule are scheduled to be presented this fall.

The rule is estimated to cost trucking companies between $6 and $10 billion.

In December 2009, a scandal emerged when it was revealed that CARB Chairman Mary Nichols told some, but not all, CARB board members that the agency had learned its top researcher for the Truck and Bus Rule, Hien Tran, had faked his resume and lied repeatedly to his superiors at the air quality agency.

Tran, Enstrom said, ordered his doctoral degree online for $1,000.

Tran claimed that he had a doctorate degree in statistics from the University of California at Davis, but that was later found to be untrue. Nichols told some board members about the lie. Other board members who were kept in the dark for nearly an entire year, were outraged. Some board members called for a review of the science behind the Truck and Bus Rule.

Tran is still employed at CARB.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer